O.B. James 1 p.m., March 7
The Guest House
Trio M is composed of bassist extraordinaire Mark Dresser, Bay Area pianist Myra Melford and the New York based drummer, Matt Wilson.
The Guest House is their brand new CD, recorded for the longstanding German label Enja.
This is not your average "piano-trio" by a long shot. Melford and Dresser have been exploring the world of "Telematic-Performances" for several years now, and their hook-up is approaching the telepathic. Wilson is one of the most creative and swinging drummers on the East Coast, and together, the trio manages to nail the traditional expectations while shattering the boundaries of convention.
Beginning with the Melford penned title track, there is an instant surge of joy in this music. The pianist's rollicking left hand bass-lines get you ready to dance, then suddenly the music veers left for a startling double bass solo where Dresser accompanies himself rhythmically through whispered hissing, (kind of like a muted hi-hat), while performing all manner of two-handed magic on the fingerboard.
"Kind Of Nine" is very rhythmically complex, but the multiple meters are absorbed so organically that what visits the listening ear is a bluesy ballad, supported by Melford's storybook lyricism and the bassist's grainy, poignant statement, while Wilson directs from the rear with shimmering cymbals and tasteful rimshots.
Wilson's "Hope For The Cause," is dedicated to those whose lives have been touched by cancer. It opens with Dresser's rich but pleading arco over the beautifully reverberant tinkling of the piano. After a series of cymbal washes, Melford assumes the lead with minimalist layered melodies worthy of Bill Evans.
Dresser's explosive ostinato begins "The Promised Land," over the churning drums, before a series of metric unisons follow. Melford lets a series of blue-note trills fly, then dances around the tricky form, eventually peppering the broken rhythms with Monkish intervals and manic atonal runs.
The 12 minute plus "Tele Mojo," starts with eerie ponticello bowing around the out-of-time musings of Melford, dramatically, the focus of the piano shifts radically to wild ethnic marimba sounds, courtesy of alnico magnets placed between the strings. Dresser signals straight time with plucked sequences, Wilson's pinpoint ride cymbal articulations lighting the path.
"Al," is Wilson's homage to avant garde saxophone icon Albert Ayler, and it begins with the kind of slurring fanfare he was known for, before proceeding into a remarkable timbre-rich, virtuoso solo by Dresser. A three-way freedom ensues, occasionally brought back to Earth with little bits of walking bass.
Bi-tonal, two-handed tapping begin the joyously Zimbabwean inspired dance of "Ekoneni." When piano and drums enter, there are short bits of call-and-response that ricochet between the three before Melford takes over with an ecstatic, melodious solo that made me recall Keith Jarrett in mid-flight.
The Guest House is terrific stuff, and the production-values are top notch all they way, from the crystalline sound to the superior artwork and graphics.