In one of Ken Vandermark's many projects, he plays in "Free Fall", a trio format with Norwegian pianist Havard Wiik and Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten, as a tribute band to the music of Jimmy Giuffre.
Now we find him again in the company of Wiik, but accompanied by Chicagoan Chad Taylor on drums. Like with Free Fall, this trio is also strongly rooted in jazz tradition, with fixed (?) rhythms, elaborated compositions and harmonic development. The musical skills demonstrated by all three musicians are staggering, both on their instruments as in the phenomenal interplay, yet as so often with great albums, the quality of the music itself is what really counts and it also receives their full attention.
Wiik is a stylist, someone with a gentle touch, and strong sense of lyricism, and his combination with Vandermark's incredible skills of shifting from patterns to breaking them and back again in one seamless motion work well with Taylor's rhythmic complexities. Actually, all three excell in the key ingredients : lyricism, powerplay and tradition-pushing.
The tunes range from sweet, as in "Trued Right", or abstract bluesy, as on "Arborization", to clever rhythm-shifting in the phantastic and genre-crossing "The Kreuzberg Variations" to powerplay on "Comeling". There is madness to be heard, yet controlled or contained, and joined with some more universal feelings as melancholy and tenderness. The variation is great, as are the compositions, almost equally divided among the members of the trio.
The line-up is unusual too (check on the "Sax Piano Drums Trio" in the right column to get to know more of them), yet one that works extremely well because it offers harmonic, rhythmic and a wealth of solo opportunities, while keeping the improvisational freedom of a small ensemble.
In any case, great stuff, and not to be missed.
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