Bert Seager

Freedom of Assembly

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Boston pianist Seager, now 45 years old, has been heard with combos on other recordings, but here it's a trio setting, and the musicians live up to the title. Introspective, richly harmonic textures and freely associated ideas are stuck together with hints of rhythmic structure and swing. Seager emphasizes that these are spontaneous compositions that were given titles after they were recorded. Inevitable comparisons to Keith Jarrett come to mind, but Seager is his own man, as are his line mates, bassist George Donchev and drummer Nat Mugavero. Perhaps it is the rhythmic context and dynamic shadings which set these pieces apart. "Preamble" is a free mezzo piano improv that leads to an uppity, bop-flavored "Public Ptomaine" where no discernable single melody dominates, but the notes fly fast and furious at you. "Warp & Woof" seems based simply on Seager's clever whims as the other two respond accordingly, while Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad" is an exercise in "how slow can you go?." Industrial noise turns to churning strings of spontaneous thoughts on a non-fat "Free Lunch," while the trio dips further into midnight blue, labyrinth darkness in rubato fashion with slight "Witchcraft" quotes during "Naked Eye Astronomy." There are two versions of Irving Berlin's "Remember"; both skate around the melody, the first rambling, and the reprise more glued to the original line, but still extrapolating from it. Seager has a tendency to treat melody as smoke rings -- solid at first, wafting higher, growing larger but dissipating, then fading from view, but leaving a smoldering smell, just as on "Chaos Theory" where he trades phrases with Mugavero. "Bottom's Up" is Donchev's feature, screeching arco bass overtones in again, as the mezzo piano range intros light tom-tom beats. A bowed bass and a piano inflected with innocence collaborate during "Cradle & All," another dark piece that seems to be where this trio dwells. This is quite a different journey for Seager; it's not the group jazz he had formerly documented. Perhaps for the special or challenged modern jazz maven, this is definitely an original statement that commands attention and brings a resolution of inward searching for not only the participants, but the advanced listener as well.

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