By Paul Acquaro
In just about every mention of Trio Xolo's debut recording "In Flower, In Song," the following seems to appear: the trio is "an improvising group composed of Mexican-American bassist Zachary Swanson, Baltimore-based saxophonist Derrick Michaels, and Lithuanian percussionist Dalius Naujo." Knowing who plays what on the recording is good information, however, the music they make together seems to defy any need for other details, as the three seem to melt together musically in shared purpose.
The trio's instrumental composition, bass, sax and drums, is one of the classic arrangements in modern jazz, with Sonny Rollins's being an oft cited originator of the form on 1957's Way Out West. Of course, Rollin's music still had a lot of classic structure and swing, and this format has continued to evolve and become ever more abstracted over the half century since. On In Flower, In Song, the Trio Xolo, the approach is somewhere between fully improvised and delightfully melodic, and free floating and abstractly swinging.
The opening track, 'Texcoco,' is a fine example of this claim. It starts calmly with Michaels playing a snaking, spacious line over Swanson's thick plucked bass notes and Naujo's arrhythmic lines. Evolving, the tempo picks-up and the bass and drums lock into a groove, while the sax line grows dense and intense. The following track, 'In Ruins,' finds the group locked into that abstracted swing - the feel is light, space between the notes, space between the players, but dialed into a slightly askew gait. Swanson's solo bass begins the next 'Anchored in Peace,' in which he plays an engaging melodic idea that eventually connects with a busy but supportive pattern from Naujo. Michaels' sax playing begins delicately here, circling the bass, sidestepping the drums, but gains in some intensity as the song continues. The music flows seemingly effortlessly from the three, and it's really only on the later track, 'Vantablack,' that Michaels delivers some overblown lines supported by intense drumming. It is a fierce couple minutes that is too quickly over.
Trio Xolo's feel is flows consistent throughout the recording, wavering between inside and outside playing, they never stray too far from being melodic but also do not rely on it for very long either. Their collaboration is approachable without being predictable and swinging without a consistent beat. Thoroughly enjoyable.