I think the best place to start this review is with today's Q&A with Argentinian percussionist Pablo Diaz and pianist Paula Shocron, in which Shocron writes "I think that it’s easy for a guest to join us, I feel it almost always works. I feel we have great facility to adapt ourselves and our language to different instrumentation."
I can think of two instances specifically when watching the duo play live, a couple years apart, where the duo was seamlessly enhanced by others. First, was in Brooklyn at Andrew Drury's 'Soup and Sound' series. Here, Shocron and Diaz played in several different combinations, including the one that is featured here with clarinetist Guillermo Gregorio. The other time was at the Kuhlspot in Berlin just this past winter. Shocron and Diaz were joined with a second set of hands on the piano, and I think there may have been suddenly a cellist on stage. Honestly, it doesn't matter. As Shocron points out, she and Diaz can easily adapt to any situation.
Here, they perform in two different trio situations, one a new partnership, and the other going back several years and two albums.
Paula Shocron & Pablo Díaz - special guest Guillermo Gregorio - Diálogos (Fundacja Słuchaj, 2019) ****
As much as I recommend simply listening to this recording, I think the liner notes are a must read. Fortunately, they are online on the Bandcamp site so you can take part in Andrew Drury's history lesson that compresses fifty years of history into a concise three paragraphs. Starting with Argentinian clarinetist Guillermo Gregorio's involvement in the fertile music and art scene of mid-1960's Agentina, through the political oppression that followed, his journey to Europe and finally the US, and then Diaz and Shocron's journey from modern day Buenos Aries to meeting up with Gregorio. The notes sets the stage to listen to these three musicians connect and make the music on Diálogos.
Spread over 14 miniature improvisations, the dialogues are varied and nuanced. The opening track 'aria nro. 1' begins with a very reserved melody from the piano and a light touch on the drums. Gregorio's clarinet is warm and woody, meshing nicely with the circular motion of the piano and the clattering percussion, together it is calm and fluid. 'Walking Down', a couple of tracks in, is kinetic and beckoning. Playing inside the piano (most likely), Shocron hops around in the background as Gregorio is front and center, darting about. Jumping through the tracks, 'perspectiva axonometrica' offers a much different sound than the other tracks mentioned so far as snippets of disconnected melodies engage in conversation with the drums, which themselves are being approached in unique ways. 'inwood-brooklyn 4hs.', feels as desperate musically as it does while trying to make this 17 mile journey through New York City (be it by car, subway, or clarinet). Here Gregorio's clarinet is joined by nervous sounding piano playing and oblique drumming. At the four minute mark, the group connects and ramps up the intensity. Throughout, the trio reaches higher and higher on each track, and on the final one, 'sounds brewing', Shocron plays extended arpeggios over which Guillermo's clarinet ducks, weaves, and chases the pianist about.
It's our luck that Shocron and Diaz connected with Gregorio. Their collaboration sounds effortless as it spans generations and distances. There is much to keep you hooked and wanting more.
SLD Trio - EL Contorno Del Espacio (Fundacja Słuchaj, 2019) ****½
On this third outing of the SLD Trio, which features bassist German Lamonega along with Diaz and Shocron, the spirit of collaboration is strong and vibrant. From the opening solo bass intro on first track 'Jiwasa' to the precise and assured run of chords on the piano, and the intense but still airy interactions that follow, it's obvious that the trio has not lost any of it's energy since 2017's Tensegridad.
A series of tracks in the early middle part of the album provide a cross-section to examine the pulse and direction that the trio is pursuing. The intensity of the track 'Trascender' is a perfect example of the poise and balance of the trio. Wedged between the tracks 'Secreto 3' and 'Secreto 1', it begins with a patter of piano and rapidly bowed notes from the bass. The drums are approached somewhat scattershot through the opening moments, and as the track gathers more and more momentum, and the piano fill ever more space. Two-thirds of the way towards its end, the group reaches a peak and quickly backs off the volume, leaving the drums and bass to duet for a moment before coming to a stop. The book-ending, and out of order, 'Secreto 3' and 'Secreto 1' offer strong musical contrasts. The first one ('Secreto 3') focuses on Shocron as she builds up tension along with Diaz, who responds deftly to her volume and intensity. Then on 'Secreto 1', Shocron offers a take on minimalism, rapidly repeating notes over a sparse harmonic line as Lamonega accompanies with a deliberate bowed melody and Diaz offers up anguished sounds from the drums.
El Contorno Del Espacio is a wonderful recording that reveals more on every listen. The musical ideas pass by with vivaciousness and speed, the drumming is sympathetic and explorative, and the bass fits neatly between, connecting with Diaz's ideas and helping to shape Shocron's classically informed lines.