Tony Coe's 1983 Willisau Jazz Festival appearance with bassist Chris Laurence and drummer Tony Oxley is nothing less than a shattering performance -- every expectation or impression of the versatile Coe is laid to waste in this set of focused, innovative, time- and genre-blurring jazz tunes. Whether self-composed, such as "Some Other Autumn" or "Bub and Run," or classics such as Bill Evans' "Re: Person I Knew," John Green's "Body & Soul," or Thelonious Monk's "Nutty," Coe applies the same concentration to getting all he can from the trio format. And, as Art Lange suggests that Coe's band owes a bit to the Sonny Rollins-led trios of the late '50s, there is also a debt to the Steve Lacy trios of the late '70s and 1980, as well as Albert Ayler's earliest trio in 1959. Coe's phraseology as a saxophonist is original: He clearly loves Coleman Hawkins, Rollins, and Coltrane, but his sense of tone and embouchure is his own. Choosing Oxley as a drummer in this setting was wise: in stark contrast to the usual place of the drummer in a piano-less trio, Oxley is a bit of a minimalist, acting as a dancer on the stage, playing just enough, often enough to gather from his rhythms the place of silence within them. Laurence, on the other hand, given his background in classical music as well as jazz, is a maximalist: He and Coe go toe to toe on any number of compositions here, warring for dominant chromatics in "Nutty" and "Some Other Autumn." They slip over one another, playing asymmetrical lines at acute intervals in "Body and Soul," and weave a Moebius strip of gorgeous single line dynamics in "Re: Person I Knew." The final result, when Oxley comes at last crashing through the duo, sounding as if the wood and metal of his kit were splintering apart, is one of profound musicality and sonic empathy. These performances are offered with emotion to spare and a technical excellence only a music professor could critique with any acuity. Nutty is a joyous ride through the musical heart of Tony Coe.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek