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Friday, June 8, 2012

Art Bailey Trio - Quiet As A Bone (HRL Records, 2012) ***½

By Paolo Casertano

I have the belief, not necessarily valid, that it is kind of difficult to be unconventional as a piano/bass/drums trio - admitting if that being unconventional is the criterion you choose to measure innovation in music or that this feature itself may at all be regarded as a value. And, well, unless you’re not speaking of Shipp/Parker/Brown playing a composition by David S. Ware.

Quiet as a Bone, named after Dylan Thomas’ “Once Below a Time” poem’s closing line, marks the debut as a leader of the New York based pianist Art Bailey. Sounds and their evocation play a major role in Thomas’s poetry, which is why I find it so appealing that reference is made to such a quotation that masterfully embodies the idea of silence, to introduce an album that certainly is not silent and quiet.

From the very first notes a strong cinematic taste spreads through the listener catapulting him into a seventies exploitation movie. An ideal score to a car chase scene or to a “could please someone save the world?” climax. You can choose the subgenus and enjoy yourself seeking which track you would link to a peculiar passage of the plot. And I’m telling this as an absolute preciousness of the album.  Take a look to the “Des Femmes disparaissent” soundtrack  by Art Blakey and make your own comparison.

No extended techniques divert the listener from the strong cohesion of each single composition; an enjoyable interplay of the rhythm section set up by bassist Michael Bates and drummer Owen Howard faithfully build a solid foundation on which the piano can deploy its beguiling voice between baritone layers and galloping lyrical Hancockian melodies. The trio is never self-indulgent, guiding each arrangement through a clear and pleasant development, giving to every “scene” of the work its intelligent length.

It may be not a new and undiscovered path but it is a solid and pleasurable one indeed or in any case a valid option to some not unforgettable movies.

Concluding as we began with Dylan Thomas, the album is not as quiet as a bone and you won’t be  hearing any raven coughing in winter sticks (from “Especially When the October Wind”) if hoarse and icy squawks are what you’re looking for.

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© stef