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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kirk Knuffke, Kenny Wollesen, Lisle Ellis - “Chew Your Food” (No Business, 2010) ****½

I'm a lover of small ensembles, and the trumpet trio is surely one of my favorites, and when the musicians are Kirk Knuffke on trumpet, Lisle Ellis on bass, and Kenny Wollesen on drums, quality and skills are almost guaranteed. The performance on this LP was recorded live at Roulette in New York last year.

I have appreciated Knuffke's playing and music before, and I will do it again here. His tone is always full and warm, and he's a master at taking tough bends easily. The music is jazz in its purest sense : improvisational joy and emotional expressivity in a compact form. There is nothing but pulse in the pieces they play, even if the rhythms are not always explicit or when there are no patterns, the three musicians interact so well that they invent on the spot and keep this pulse going. Most of the pieces are uptempo, and real fun. The last track on side A, "Whatever's Next", shows a more bluesy side of the trio, slow and full of pain and agony, but then just in terms of feeling and mood, and without falling back on familiar structures.

The second side starts with great interplay between Ellis and Wollesen, over an open tune, but then comes the title track, a real goose bumps piece, slow again, with Ellis playing arco and Knuffke crying his heart out over soft fingerbeats on the toms, and Wollesen's drumming even evolves into a wonderfully restraint and mesmerizing drums solo, which leads us into the next piece, more mid-tempo, open-textured yet again so full of soul.

Critics who claim that free jazz is all about noise and violence, or that avant-garde is all cerebral and abstract stuff, should listen to this album to be contradicted. This trio is almost jazz in its pure essence : three guys making music straight from the heart, and truly liberated in spirit, and with instrumental skills of such a level that it's all conveyed as if without the slightest effort. Great stuff!

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef


Guy said...

I like this album a lot as well. It feels very relaxed and spontaneous (effortless, like you say), it' subtle and intimate, very loose and free yet still surprisingly accessible.
Knuffke is once again a damn fine soloist, Ellis was the discovery for me (still filling some gaps) and it was nice to hear Wollesen in this trio context for a change.