The musicians that comprise Chicago's best new free trio (this side of
Kuzu) aren't the kind of players that seem to relish the spotlight much.
These guys are Serious Band Musicians, one and all. Gerrit Hatcher (tenor
sax) and Julian Kirshner (percussion) are both young enough that you'd be
willing to forgive any showboating (which they could easily do) – but ya
see, they're smart enough to know that playing for the music itself reaps
the highest reward. I doubt they came upon this wisdom from their elder
Peter Maunu (guitar) directly – not because he isn't wise, but because
Hatcher and Kirshner are sharp as shit – especially where creativity is
concerned. It's one reason why the trio works so well as a unit: the two
young guys are up to Maunu's level as musicians and intuitive creative
A minute and a half into “Cold Seeps” the broken stops-and-starts become
agitated and build into a ranting Ayler dust storm, threatening to fly off
into a variety of directions. Hatcher's tone is hard and he plays mainly in
short phrases, even when blowing overtones. His style is direct and often
conversational - but authoritative. Maunu quickly leaps from distorted mud
to simple water droplet slide-guitar pings, always appropriate &
precise. Kirshner is a meditation master at his drum throne – the guiding
light that sees all, gently noting each change and reacting accordingly.
Maunu brings out his violin at the nine-minute mark, adding new textures to
the creation-in-action. Although not credited on the sleeve, Maunu plays a
plastic bird whistle on “Terns” as Hatcher plays avian runs, often flying
into Kirshner's chimes and pie pans.
Careful plodding from Kirshner motivates Hatcher to play some smart melodic
lines on “Honey Is Flowering In All Directions” as Maunu wraps elliptical
guitar lines around the music, which gets especially heated around the
five-minute mark when Maunu alternates between jazz-tone Montgomery-isms,
Quine scrape-jabs, and Sharrock rust-smears. (No Wave fans, Maunu's your
man!) The pensive bit that follows is unexpected with Hatcher &
Kirshner going wherever the Impulse! leads. Maunu enters again, distorted
power chords, lifting the music upward toward an eventual plane of
spiritual beauty (of the Coltrane persuasion, yes). Then Maunu rips to the
finish line with finesse. Brilliant.
“Plaice” features Maunu (on violin) and Hatcher pushing each other into
harmonic challenges while Kirshner casually supports both while elevating
the music with authority and purpose. “Nature Near” closes the disc with a
long, strange sunrise. Lovely lines from Hatcher, contemplative sonics from
Kirshner, and a guitar tone from Maunu that sounds like an accordion(!)
continue on the Coltrane path that appeared earlier. Kirshner nonchalantly
pushes just enough for Hatcher's gradually elongating phrases to flower,
while Maunu lifts the sun. Then a curtain is pulled back farther to show
Maunu playing celestial pinball while Kirshner & Hatcher pan for gold
in the desert. You figure it out.
All ridiculous superlatives aside, this disc is an extremely satisfying
listen. It remained in my car for months – long enough for me to feel that
I wouldn't even be able to hear it with fresh ears again. Thankfully, this
music contains so many layers that it surprises continually.