Trio X

Moods Playing with the Elements

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Anyone familiar with the legacy of Trio X -- including multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, bassist Dominic Duval, and drummer Jay Rosen -- knows the remarkable heights to which these musicians are capable. While there are some wonderful moments on this recording -- McPhee's astonishing sax solo and Rosen's muscular backing on "Wegatchie Run" come to mind -- as a whole this set is not as consistently compelling as others in the oeuvre of the group. So it is not surprising that producer Bob Rusch's candid liner notes reflect that this session came on the heels of a 12-hour marathon that produced the outstanding The Sugar Hill Suite the day before, implying that the players were emotionally exhausted. That said, it is unquestionably the case that these guys, even on a bad day, can outplay the tails off most other groups. Just listen to McPhee switch back and forth between brass and reeds on "Burning Wood," where Ornette-styled trumpet meets Ayler-esque tenor in a magnificent clash of wits. Which makes the trio's short interpretation of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" so fascinating, from the opening shimmering drums to McPhee's respectful and authentic dirge on tenor. Even more interesting is the take on "Stella by Starlight," which opens with the theme played on trumpet, and slowly dissolves into one of the most radical interpretations of this chestnut on disk. Another winner is the freely improvised, garrulous "In Evidence," in which McPhee's trumpet dances Monk ishly. Dominic Duval seems under-recorded in the mix, and his solo piece, "Dedicated to You, Joe" is difficult to hear. Of course, for those who listen closely, he is as rewarding as ever.

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