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Trio 3 and Vijay Iyer – Wiring [TrackList follows]—Intakt

Trio 3 and Vijay Iyer – Wiring [TrackList follows] – Intakt CD 233, 69:47 [8/26/14] ****:

(Oliver Lake – alto saxophone; Reggie Workman – bass; Andrew Cyrille – drums; Vijay Iyer – piano)

Ever play Fantasy Band and assemble a dream team of free jazz? What would you get? How about Trio 3? That would be alto saxophonist Oliver Lake; bassist Reggie Workman; and drummer Andrew Cyrille. Anyone who appreciates free-form jazz probably already knows the history of these three stalwarts. Cyrille continues to be one of the foremost free jazz percussionists. His poise, influence and unfaltering dexterity have kept him busy since the late 1950s. Particularly noteworthy is his tenure with pianist Cecil Taylor from 1964 to 1975. Lake is an equally full-range player who was a mainstay of the World Saxophone Quartet and performed with many outstanding artists. Workman—a dazzling, adaptable bassist— was in the 1961 version of the John Coltrane Quartet, and subsequently in the ‘60s was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and collaborated with Yusef Lateef and Thelonious Monk. Lake, Workman and Cyrille have distinguished solo careers, but came together as Trio 3 in 1992 to release a spate of live and studio dates, sometimes with guests such as pianists Irène Schweizer and Geri Allen.

Trio 3’s latest is Wiring, a 70-minute, 11-track project which features pianist Vijay Iyer, a progressive and exploratory musician well-suited to the Trio 3 aesthetic. In his liner notes, author/poet Amiri Baraka states this is “a flood of emotional worlds.” Baraka’s spirit imbues not only the text he wrote just two months before passing away, but in a roundabout way, the music as well. Baraka always wrote from his heart (even when the result got him into trouble), and certainly the music on Wiring has a parallel predilection. Take for instance, this album’s magnum opus, Iyer’s three-part “Suite for Trayvon (and Thousands More).”  The 12-minute homage to the slain youth, Trayvon Martin, begins with “Slimm,” which refers to Trayvon’s nickname. This piece has a lively, exultant affability, which appears to mirror a young man’s carefree humanity. The sax and piano inject an uplifting flavor, with just a hint of anxiety beneath the surface. The second section, “Fallacies,” has a scratchier facet, with an intricate rhythm which has a funk/rap tint. This is more rhetorical, as the dissonance and heated aspects seem to echo the struggles which encased the aftershock of Martin’s death. The third segment, “Adagio,” is a quiet but not calm dirge which reverberates with sorrow, distress and an intimation of antagonism. A mournful sax and similarly poignant arco bass provide a stirring quality. Cyrille also offers an accolade, this one to Blakey, who also went by the name Abdullah Ibn Buhaina, or “Bu.” The sprinting, drum-swelled “Tribute to Bu” is perpendicularly enthusiastic, in other words, it goes straight up and never comes down. While Cyrille’s drumming is somewhat less showy than Blakey’s, Cyrille simulates Blakey’s exuberant percussive accents, while he creates dappled rhythmic textures, bringing to mind Blakey’s essence.

At the opposite end of the sonic spectrum from “Tribute to Bu” is the tender, collective tune, “Rosemarie,” the only all-group composition (other original compositions are credited to individual members). There is a post-bop, romantic tinge generated by Lake’s tactful but loose alto sax shadings; Iyer’s tantalizing, single, keyboard notes; Workman’s beautiful arco bass; and Cyrille’s lithe cymbals and brushes. Cyrille’s supple momentum and complex percussive touches also suffuse through the record’s only cover tune, an investigative rendering of Curtis Clark’s “Chiara.” Lake uses his sometimes slightly strident tone, which decorated many World Saxophone Quartet selections, while the rhythm section partakes in layered and variegated time signatures, and over the course of nearly eight minutes, everyone finds space to improvise. There are several other highlights. Lake’s multidimensional “Shave” is a number which has a quickened pace and an unrestrained accentuation. Baraka calls this a “funky contribution” in the liner notes, but what the foursome produces is far from a straightforward groove, and any sense of traditional, or even easy to follow, inclinations is thrown aside as the four musicians accelerate into free jazz territory. The title track, also penned by Lake, actually does have a semblance of groove, although the group again lets things fly. Wiring is an undertaking of communication. Before heading into the studio, the trio and Iyer performed at New York City’s Birdland venue, working out any kinks or tribulations. The result is a celebratory assortment of free form material sure to please listeners who esteem imaginative improvisation at a high peak.

TrackList: The Prowl; Synapse II; Willow Song; Shave; Rosemarie; Suite for Trayvon (and Thousands More): I. Slimm, II. Fallacies, III. Adagio; Wiring; Chiara; Tribute to Bu.

—Doug Simpson

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