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Saturday, May 6, 2023

Trumpet Trios

By Stef Gijssels

Trumpet trios are less rare than we assume. Here's an update, a completist's list, because these are the albums that we received/bought in the past months that comply with the broad definition of a trumpet trio: a horn with rhythm section, usually a double bass and a drums. 

We do not go into much detail, but just try to point the reader in the right direction in terms of musical taste. Not all albums would be high on my list, but I will rank them in order of my personal preference. 

Earlier this year we already reviewed Gabriele Miteli's "Three Tsuru Origami" and also "Dishwasher". 

Thomas Heberer, Ken Filiano & Phil Haynes - Spontaneous Composition (Self-Released, 2022) & Thomas Heberer's Garden, Max Johnson, Lou Grassi – Push Play (CIMP, 2022) 

The best of the list are two trios with Thomas Heberer on the horn. Two very different albums in nature yet both easy to recommend. The first one is called "Spontaneous Composition" with Ken Filiano on double bass and Phil Haynes on drums. The music was recorded in September last year and released a month later. As its title suggest, the five tracks of the album are entirely improvised. All three musicians play equal roles, and sometimes with a strong lead from Filiano on bass, who comes with the drive and the ideas for the improvisations. Heberer's improvisations are so strong and lyrical that you wonder why he ever wants to compose. It all comes naturally to him, especially in the company of this extraordinary creative rhythm section. The precision and skills of the three musicians are in stark contrast to the music's direct and unpolished authenticity, a wonderful paradox that makes the overall result even stronger. 

The second album - "Push Play" - has a more composed nature with Heberer clearly holding the pen to some of the tracks, and with Max Johnson and Lou Grassi on bass and drums respectively. The recording already dates from 2013, performed in the famous "spirit room" of the CIMP label. The music is intense, and the themes often nothing more than scene setters. The sound quality is excellent, with a great balance between the instruments. One of the tracks is a tribute to Mongezi Feza, the great South African trumpeter. 

It is hard to say which of both albums I would prefer, so I recommend that you look for both of them, even if the CIMP one may be a little more difficult to find. 

Listen to "Spontaneous Composition" and download from Bandcamp

Vance Provey, Whit Dickey & Spin Dunbar - Motifs 1983 (New Haven Improvisers Collective, 2023)

Trumpeter Vance Provey appears on just a few albums, in the Leap Of Faith Ensemble", in "Turbulence" and the "Gunther Hampel New York Ochestra". On this recording from 1983, we find him in the presence of With Dickey on drums, and Spin Dunbar on bass, whose musical output is limited to this album, and who is now a stained glass artist in New Mexico. Both Provey and Dunbar worked with Bill Dixon at Bennington College. 

I am not sure where this album suddenly appears from, or why this studio recording from 40 years ago was suddenly dug up, yet it's a great album, straightforward free jazz improvisation, with great band dynamics and Provey constantly taking the lead voice, a voice which is full, warm and lyrical, somehow wonderfully contrasting with the nervous bass of Dunbar. Dickey's drumkit is somehow a little bit lost in the overall sound, somewhere a little too much in the background. 

Interesting album and really worth checking out. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Toshinori Kondo, Massimo Pupillo & Tony Buck - Eternal Triangle (IDA 052 - 2022)

The late Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo fits in a musical space all his own, performing on his electric instrument, creating atmospheric soundscapes that mix new age slow spaciousness and high reverb with raw electronic distortions and elements of free improvisation. Here he is in the company of Massimo Pupillo on electric bass and electronics, and Tony Buck on drums and percussion. His sound is not really my cup of tea, yet fans will appreciate that the label makes this music still available. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Peachfuzz - Peachinguinha (Silent Water, 2022)

Peachfuzz is a Portuguese trio with João Almeida on trumpet, Norberto Lobo on electric guitar and João Lopes Pereira on drums. Their music is a great mixture of styles (a little funk, contemplative moments, a little skronk, and just free jazz), and luckily they don't take themselves too seriously, as the track titles already suggest: "Peaches Brew", "Maria João Peach", "Peachinguinha" and "Peachhiker's Guide To The Galaxy". The trio leave each other lots of space to develop each musician's ideas, and somehow it all gells well. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Zack Lober - NO FILL3R (Zennez Records, 2023)

Zack Lober is a Canadian bassist, here in the presence of Suzan Veneman on trumpet and Sun-Mi Hong on drums. Lober, Veneman and Hong are all based in the Netherlands. 

Their trio performances are more post-boppish modern jazz than free improvisation, yet the quality of their playing is so good that it's worth sharing. All three are not only excellent instrumentalists, but they also share a great sense of lyricism and ensemble playing. The music itself stays too much within its own comfort zone to my liking, and is insufficiently challenging to my ears, but that was also clearly not their intention either. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Quentin Ghomari - Ôtrium (Neuklang, 2022)

The French trio of Quentin Ghomari on trumpet, Yoni Zelnik on double bass, and Antoine Paganotti on drums is easy to recommend for fans of modern jazz. The technical skills are excellent. Ghomari has been the trumpeter in French bands such as Ping Machine and Papanosh. The music of the trio is deeply rooted in the jazz of the sixties, but with a very modern attitude to compositional structure, including the occasional increase of power, even if the boundaries and patterns in the music remain relatively stable throughout. 

You can listen to the entire album on Youtube and other digital channels.

Derby Derby - Macadam (Ormo Records, 2022)

The trio are Alan Regardin on trumpet, Sylvain Didou on bass, and Fabrice Lhoutellier on drums. The beat is more rock than jazz, the starts with one long stretched slightly shifting sonic drone supported by repetitive drum beats, creating a hypnotic psychedelic sound. It lasts eighteen minutes. The second track starts with a basic rock drum beat, again endlessly repeated, over which the now a little more discernable trumpet starts weaving ephemeral sounds. This lasts nine minutes. And that's it. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp


Anonymous said...

Could you please reinstate the rating of the entries with the number of stars? I really enjoyed, for example, reading the 5-star reviews one day, and then specifically going through the 4-star or 3-star reviews on another day.
And it would be particularly useful in cases like this, where one author reviews several entries at once.

Allan said...

I'm a big fan of trumpet trios and have a number of Thomas Herberer's CD's.
The CIMP recording is, as you say, difficult to track down and when you do find it, the postal costs from the U.S. are ridiculously high.
Does anyone know if the recording is available as a download please?

Thomas Heberer said...

Hi Allan, if you get in touch with me through my website, I'll be happy to help. You'll find me here:
All best, Thomas Heberer