Saturday, September 21, 2019
Tiger Trio - Map of Liberation (RogueArt, 2019) ****
By Keith Prosk
Map of Liberation reunites Nicole Mitchell (flutes), Joëlle Léandre (contrabass), and Myra Melford (piano) for the trio’s second outing after 2016’s Unleashed. Like Unleashed, Map of Liberation is comprised of free improvisations recorded at live performances, this time across two dates in 2018. It exhibits the combinatory wonders of these three masters’ effusive vitalities, their communication culminating in a jubilant fount of inspiration.
Surprisingly, Léandre and Melford have not recorded together outside of Tiger Trio. But Léandre and Mitchell have developed a rich collaborative history in the 2010s with Before After (with Dylan Van Der Schyff), Flowing Stream (with Thomas Buckner), and the essential duo Sisters Where. And Mitchell and Melford have recorded together in the large ensembles of Live At Sant'Anna Arresi, 12 From 25, and Lisa Mezzacappa’s Glorious Ravage. The comfortable communication expected from such frequent contact is apparent here.
Mitchell mostly alternates from sonorous drones, wispy whistles, and long overblows to sprightly flights full of color. Léandre most frequently cycles through a rich array of bowing techniques but not uncommonly summons a plucked protean rhythm or a soulful melody of bent notes. Melford intersperses twinkling, free bursts of melody in between hypnotic, rhythmic canons. The three players rotate these modules of their techniques into several combinations, sometimes overlapping similar approaches to amplify the energy, like Mitchell’s held tones with Léandre’s arco, Léandre’s pizzicato with Melford’s percussive rhythms, Melford’s twinkling explorations with Mitchell’s flights. Some combinations - particularly the pairing of Mitchell’s meditative drones, Léandre’s high-register bowing, and Melford’s muted circular rhythms - seem to contain the energy and wisdom of an ancient and sacred folk music. There’s some more obvious extended technique, like key clicks, bouncing the bow on the strings or bowing circularly, or muting and playing inside the piano, but the playing here is closer to classic energy music. There’s some voicings as well, and some vocal purrs.
There’s an excitement and a joy here that’s not often paralleled in any music. It’s colorful. It’s playful. It’s physical. It’s powerful. It’s an enriching listen that might just stand out in the always-enriching work of these musicians.
Map of Liberation is a CD-only release.