Trio X

On Tour: Toronto/Rochester

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This powerful live recording collects five tracks from a 2001 tour by the group known as Trio X. With the caliber of musicians comprising the trio, it is not surprising that there is a consistently high quality to these unusual interpretations, which, for the most part, merely hint at recognizable melodies. For example, "Monkin' Around" skirts around "Blue Monk" without totally absorbing it, while "My Funny Valentine" just touches on the melody. Joe McPhee is sterling on both tenor sax and trumpet (probably pocket trumpet), the latter of which is not listed in the credits. McPhee grabs a melodic line, turns it completely inside out, like a sculptor who redoes his clay, and then creates something related, but new. McPhee sustains a mature improvisational construct that goes to the essence of a tune without mimicking it. His disciplined, tamed voice is pure pleasure. While he is generally restrained, on "Trail of Tears" he explodes for a bit and then returns to a peaceful, though just off-kilter allusion to "Send in the Clowns," followed by more fireworks. Dominic Duval presses McPhee to stretch; when the bassist solos, he disposes preconceived notions and twists his strings into wondrous blends. The three performers easily sustain interest for each of the lengthy tracks (the longest being nearly 22 minutes) without repeating themselves or running out of ideas. Pure joy.

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