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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Brian Groder Trio - Luminous Arcs (Latham, 2019) ****½

By Stef

This is the third album by the trio of Brian Groder on trumpet & flugelhorn, Michael Bisio on double-bass, and Jay Rosen on drums. Their previous albums "Reflexology" and "R Train On The D Line" date from 2014 and 2016 respectively. With three musicians of this caliber, nothing much can go wrong, and that seems to be the starting point of a wonderful exploration of blues and deep roots of jazz, all performed without explicit real themes or structure, an approach which offers the three artists free reign to listen hard to each other and to go well beyond the use of their automatic pilot.

On the previous albums, easy anchor points could be found, agreed concepts, themes, melodic lines. Now, all that seems to be thrown overboard for a deeper dive into the essence of music.

In a way, they revive old concepts and revel in it. By analogy, in the liner notes Groder mentions the importance of older forms of (Scottish) words that are now rarely used anymore, but which are still very evokative and used as inspiration and titles for the improvisations: visions of the universe, the sky, of the seasons, of nature, whether the visual or its underlying physics. The deep roots of the music and the endless sky meet in the past, with a vision to the future, a rare combination which seems to work well musically.

The album alternates melancholy and meditative moments with lightly boppish uptempto improvisation, such as "Spanglin", "Sundog" - with a key role for Jay Rosen's energetic playing - and "Crystal Lattice". On the slow pieces, Groder's warm and clear tone on both trumpet and flugelhorn match perfectly with Bisio's authentic, intimate and human sound - listen to "Far Between" - supported by Rosen's sensitive implicit percussive support.

The sound is traditional in essence - and without extended techniques - but free in its delivery, while at times breaking through the conventions and exploding, as in "Smoored" (which means suffocating - a word no longer used in English, but which still exists in Dutch), led by Bisio's powerful arco.

Overall, the trio manage to create a great listening experience, full of variation, balance and intensity, and I'm sure that the album's combination of accessibility, deeply felt emotions and free form, as well as the stellar interplay will please many listeners. I can only hope it doesn't take another three years before we hear of their next album.

Listen and download from Bandcamp.


Anonymous said...

Stef, I would like to know your opinion about another trumpet / bass / drums album, "Trio Discrepancies" by the Josh Berman Trio (Astral Spirits, 2019). (The download has a long track that is not on the LP.)

Stef said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for the comment. More trumpet trios will be reviewed.