Saturday, January 18, 2014

Blood Trio - Understory (Not Two, 2013) ****

By Stef 

We've reviewed albums before with saxophonist and clarinetist Sabir Mateen, bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey. Use the "search" engine on the right and lists of albums will appear, with the three artists as leaders in their respective bands, and in bands like Frode Gjerstad's Circulasione Totale, William Parker's orchestras, the David S Ware bands, or in albums with Joe Morris, Matthew Shipp, Joe McPhee, Daniel Carter ... and many more. 

And now we get all three in a trio, and a real trio, with all three musicians shaping the sound. Is it all improvised? It's hard to say, because most of the tracks have a clear and identifiable sound or even a theme, that, vague as it may be, creates the focus for the ensuing free development, with an underlying boppish element that is never far away. 

You have plenty of sax trios, yet few get to the high level of this trio. The musicianship, the interaction, the variation and the drive make this a trio you really want to listen to. 

The album starts ferociously, working on a boppish theme that is soon dropped for some more free power, with hard hitting rhythm section and a soaring sax. 

Yet it's not all fire and power, "Ancient Tree" starts as a quiet ballad, with arco bass and quiet sax, but with this trio intensity and drive are at the core of their being, so it doesn't take long before the tempo and the volume are turned up a notch or two, 

"Arachnia" too, starts quietly, with clarinet and pizzi bass, sparsely supported by the drums, yet it keeps its mysterious open-ended phrases, a moment of calm in the center of a storm.

The title track is clearly the center piece, with Mateen on tenor, and initially the trio keeps the pace almost contemplative, but again the trio explodes, with the sax screaming and howling over the deep sound of the bass, and the magnificent pulse of the drums, only to collapse into silence suddenly, as an intro for Dickey to give a long drum solo, followed by an intimate conversation of bass and sax, just beautiful. 

But my favorite piece is the closing track, again ferocious from beginning to end, full of raw power and deep expressivity.

This is free music, energetic, focused, soulful, raw and with a maddening drive, with sparks flying off in all directions, while at the same time offering variety and subtlety too.


Available at Instantjazz.com.



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