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Thursday, June 9, 2022

Liba Villavecchia Trio, Zaidín (Clean Feed 2022)

That feeling when someone serves you a dish that you’ve forgotten you loved? That’s what I’ve got. There aren’t many alto/bass/drum trios plying the outfunkjazz spaceways. The Thomas Chapin Trio, who charted this territory, was a staple of my New York days (FYI, Chapin and the author are distantly related). One of Chapin’s tunes shows up on Liba Villavecchia’s Zaidín. His spirit would approve of the whole endeavor.

Villavecchia is joined by Alex Reviriego on bass and Vasco Trilla on drums and percussion. Some of the copy on the Clean Feed website informs us that Trilla is a “free improvising drummer that comes from black metal.” Not sure about the black metal connection, but he genuinely swings like a mf’er on this. Reviriego’s bass provides a melodic bass foundation to the enterprise—with the recording quality only amplifying his assertion and solidity—not unlike a Mario Pavone or Michael Formanek.

The star, though, is the alto, of course. Zaidín gives us four compositions by Villavecchia, two trio improvs, and a cover of Chapin’s “Bypass.” The settings provide the opportunity for conversations and disquisitions by every player. There is such a sense of joy to these pieces—a sort of vulgar abandon infused with a Stax-funk sense of humor.

As an example, the piece, “ La Voz Grave Y Los Ojos Negros ,” starts with a free instrospective wander on the alto, then a knotty springtime swingy head, individual statements, a composed middle section, and an alto solo that starts on top of a killer backbeat before the beat disintegrates and we end up at the “deep voices and black eyes.” A wonderful eight minute journey.

Lest you think I’m leaning too much into the Thomas Chapin angle, Villavecchia’s notes explicitly namecheck Chapin (who died in 1998) as a source and inspiration, along with Evan Parker, Ornette Coleman, and Roscoe Mitchell. He sums up the trios mission thusly:

“Jazz is like a giant octopus that dwells in deep waters: everyone knows about its big and robust head, but few people have seen its abundant and magnificent tentacles. We are interested in exploring the most sinuous endings of the slender tentacles that stem from the great Jazz octopus: their role is to contain and develop all the emotion and rage, the howling and crying that constitutes the origin of Jazz.”

First, let me salute that extravagant, extended metaphor. I love that kind of thing. Second, let’s everyone salute the trio’s ability to tap into “all the emotion and rage, the howling and crying,” and coming out with Zaidín.

Check it: