Click here to [close]

Monday, April 30, 2007

Dave Ballou - Insistence (Steeplechase, 2007) ****

This is the second album by Dave Ballou with only bass and drums in support, a real trumpet trio, an unfortunately all too uncommon line-up. Ballou is a great trumpeter, with broad background and expertience, who played amongst others with Rabih Abou-Khalil, Kenny Werner, Tom Varner, Satoko Fujii. To play in a trumpet trio setting you need to be strong both in the musical composition and in mastering the instruments : the players are not only vulnerable because of the exposure, but more importantly, you have to keep the listener's attention only through the musical power you bring, rather than through the breadth and depth of arrangements of a bigger band. Luckily, this trio with Michael Formanek on bass and Randy Peterson on drums is strong enough to avoid those pitfalls, bringing abstract improvized music, focussing on the interplay and the spontaneous joint creation. The CD starts a little hesitantly, almost vulnerable, but the title song "Insistence", brings some uptempo life into the album, not quite boppisch but close enough, with strong blues inflections in Ballou's playing. "Upon Reflection" is a slow meditative piece, with a melancholy trumpet, economically accompanied by the coloring accents of bass and drums. "Randy Starts" is not only the title of a song, but to all expectations the only preconceived part of a piece which starts with Randy Peterson's drums, giving the intro for the other two to join in. This is music which requires attention, music that is not readily accessible in the sense that rhythm and melody are not there on the surface of things, yet the quality of the playing closes a gap which all too often appears with too proficient instrumentalists : they play with soul, with warmth and with a directness of approach which appeals immediately. Ballou has what Dave Douglas often misses in my view : warmth. Recommended : for sensitive listeners who like some effort.