Howard Riley

Organic

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This album first came out in 1981 as part of a triple-LP set on Impetus titled Trisect. The Jazzprint label reissued each record separately in the early 2000s (the other two are Trisect and First Encounter). Organic was the first of the three to be recorded, back in October 1979, and features pianist Howard Riley in a trio session with bassist Barry Guy and drummer John Stevens. They all go back a long way, Guy having performed in numerous groups with Riley in the late '60s and '70s. The bassist was also a regular acolyte of Stevens (mostly in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and a trio with Trevor Watts). But this particular trio had performed only a couple of times prior to this recording, in 1966 and 1978 -- not a regular group, as you can see. The problem is, the tapes tell a different story. Especially obvious is how the group doesn't gel in a "lead piano with rhythm section" format. Only "One Way," the shortest track at around five minutes, gives the impression of putting Riley to the forefront. The piece is also a bit jazzier and gives the impression of being more written-down. On the other hand, "Just" and "Ontology" are two lively free improvisations. The latter holds a few short uninspired passages within its 23 minutes (including a rather tame episode of prepared piano), but nothing serious enough to put down the album. Less downright experimental than Riley's mid-'70s sessions with Guy and Tony Oxley (see Synopsis and Overground), Organic may not be an essential item in the pianist's discography, but it remains an honest, satisfying album.

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