Bob Gluck Trio – Returning – FMR Records FMRCD292-0710, 54:51 ***1/2:
(Bob Gluck – piano, co-producer; Michael Bisio – bass; Dean Sharp – drums)
On his latest project, Returning, pianist Bob Gluck revives the slightly experimental acoustic trio format he explored earlier this year on Something Quiet, his preceding FMR label release. Like that last record, Gluck features all originals which provide room to investigate miscellaneous moods, musical colors and feelings which combine both angular – sometimes dissonant – elements with lyrical underpinnings.
This time out, Gluck employs different musicians to help him realize his goal of mating abstract material with probing melodies. Gone are bassist Christopher Dean Sullivan and saxophonist Joe Giardullo and instead Gluck adds bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Dean Sharp. The result is a considered rethink of Gluck’s performance palette where he focuses on percussive components and his piano. Bisio is a beneficial choice to assist Gluck. As a solo artist and sideman, Bisio has been both adventurous on his own and able to pair up well with likeminded musicians such as Vinny Golia, Joe McPhee and Wayne Horvitz. Sharp – who has previously played alongside Bisio – has worked with a diverse roster which includes Elliott Sharp, Marc Ribot and Todd Sickafoose.
The eight compositions are not free jazz, but over the course of 54 minutes there is certainly a spirit of freeform improvisation which can be intense, complexly progressive and sometimes tumultuous. The lengthy title track, like the other pieces, has several tempo and rhythmic changes where Gluck’s conception stays true but the form varies as percussion and percussive accents fluctuate. Gluck brings in jagged keyboard lines akin to Keith Jarrett while Sharp showcases attentive cymbal dexterity, utilizes spiky hits on the sides of his snares and slips in steel drum-like sounds. Around the halfway mark, Bisio supplies a meditative bowed bass interlude which is matched by Bisio’s subtle use of metal scraping on metal.
Anyone who heard Something Quiet should recognize “Lifeline.” On Gluck’s initial rendition, he emphasized a pensive quality, but here he heightens the softer moments with turbulent aspects which feature twisting piano enhancements, another reflective Bisio solo and Sharp’s sometimes gentle and other times course accompaniment.
The trio delivers playfulness on the Gertrude Stein-inspired “There’s No There There,” which is a counterpoise to the pressured tension of other tracks and takes listeners down a witty path which swings with zeal and zest. Even here, the musicians do not abandon a sense of jarring restlessness but this is tempered by mutual brio. “That’s All You Got?” also starts with a similarly jocular approach but quickly shifts to increasingly unpredictable terrain. Bisio and Sharp both furnish memorable solos, with Sharp offering a densely packed solo at the end to produce a cacophonous closure.
The album’s only truly spontaneous improvisation is the contemplative “Something Quiet,” created after Gluck’s brief walk through the woods surrounding the recording studio. Ironically there is no tune by this name on Gluck’s record, Something Quiet, so this is perhaps an afterthought on Gluck’s prior studio date. Gluck’s lyrical characteristics are at the forefront as he carefully extrapolates on a pastoral motif accentuated by Bisio’s numerous percussive attributes and Bisio’s poised bass.
4. That’s All You Got?
5. By a Field
6. There’s No There There
8. Something Quiet
— Doug Simpson