No Fast Food “In Concert” [TrackList follows] – (Phil Haynes, drums) – Corner Store Jazz CSJ 0107-0108, (2 CDs), 48:17, 51:05 – self (1/2/14) ****:
(Phil Haynes, drums; Dave Liebman, tenor & soprano saxophone, wood flute; Drew Gress, bass)
This exceedingly well recorded live two disc release brought me bittersweet mixed emotions. The mere fact that it was recorded in tiny venues in Rochester, NY and Milheim, PA reinforces so much
that is wrong in today’s society as it relates to music. I could go on and on about aspects of this, but won’t. On the bright side, this does allow for the intimate capturing of magnificent performances by sound engineers such as Jon Rosenberg. Seemingly every nuance of each instrument is picked up with perfect balance. It does require quality full-range playback equipment for full appreciation. And man, the name Fast Food fits perfectly – this is dining for the serious connoisseur, not a quick hunger fix.
Phil Haynes has appeared on over 60 albums, some as leader: largely quartets and quintets. For this piano-less trio, he aligned himself with two masters. Dave Liebman has been around for longer than forever. He really stretches out here playing like a titan – probably closest to Coltrane (with bits of Dolphy) as far as influences while speaking his own language. Drew Gress is in the perfect setting to showcase his stunning talents. Comparisons to the ‘60s Elvin Jones Trio have arisen, but I also hear traces of that fine trio of the ’80s, Air (Threadgill, Hopkins, McCall). Haynes has often played with Gress and has known Liebman since the ’80s. It shows in their cohesion and communication.
Disc one is from The Bop Shop. The first track starts with a bass solo before Haynes enters with very nice accents. Throughout this number he uses accents and space while not constrained by keeping time. Liebman’s soprano symbolizes the composed/structured, but free style of both sets. (all but the improvised numbers closing each disc were composed by Haynes). Track two introduces Liebman by a tenor sax solo before the others kick in on this up tempo piece. Track three shows the telepathy between the three with Liebman’s very fast soprano fingering making the piece seem much faster than it really is. Track five really drives home how spectacularly well recorded this is. Very nice bass and drum unison playing with great instrumental discussions and some crying and squealing tenor. It’s like these three guys are part of the same three-headed being or something. Set One ends with a nice slow improvised ballad.
Disc two is also from the Bop Shop, with three tracks recorded at a Penn State area brew pub which turns into a small music hall on Saturdays. It continues in the same vein with the three instruments having conversations of the highest order. Tunes are chock full of solos, both singular and in dual mode before the other party so aptly jumps in. Everyone is so aware of the other—displaying superb sensitivity and reinforcing the majesty of the trio format in the hands of three virtuosos who might well comprise one of the two or three best trios at this point. The third track is the most straight post-boppish and leads right into a blues number which can only be identified as blues by the bass line. The last two tracks spotlight Haynes’ drumming, with “Chant” basically being a track long drum solo with accompaniment. On the last number they all are clearly having fun being released from the high level concentration, challenges, and responsibilities required as an equal footing collective.
Yeah, this one’s not for the compression, mobile, auto tune, compromised playback equipment crowd. I’m not even sure how well its quiet passages would mate to vinyl unless one has invested many dollars in turntable equipment and are meticulous to the point of obsessive with their record maintenance, cleaning, etc. But anyone seeking a new contemporary jazz trio disc need look no further – this one sets the standard.
TrackList: SET 1: Dawn on the Gladys Marrie; West Virginia Blues; Together; Last Dance; The Code; Ballad du jour. SET 2: Zen Lieb; Out of the Bowels; Workin’ It; Blues for Israel; Incantation; Chant; Encore du jour.
—Birney K. Brown
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