This trio date is dedicated to the music of Annette Peacock, former wife of both pianist Paul Bley and bassist Gary Peacock. While Bley is the undisputed leader on this date (as he has recorded many of these pieces before), it is flügelhorn and trumpet player Franz Koglmann who arranged them in such an exquisite manner. The majority of the pieces included here were originally composed as songs. They were vehicles for expressing the interior, haunted world that Ms. Peacock inhabits and featured her lilting, edgy voice, which slips and slithers through her deceptively simple melodies before erupting into a shriek of ecstasy or pain. Her music is the undercarriage -- the skeletal structure-- for her poetry to hang itself on. This trio treats these 12 compositions in much the same way. The music is so sparse, so lacking in adornment, that at times, tension replaces the subtle dynamic shifts in Ms. Peacock's compositions. The harmonic construction employed by Bley on this recording is used nowhere else in his vast oeuvre. The set begins with a solo piano rendering of "Touching." An open minor chord (strung with spare notes for accent) gives way to more modal chords, creating a sonic architecture that doesn't reach, but burrows deeply into itself. (It's also interesting to note that the record ends with the same tune, but played with Peacock's bass as a foundation for the terse improvisation.) Next is Koglmann's opportunity to reveal his ability for understatement with "El Cordobes." The trumpet comes off playing a tango line joined note for note by Bley, stating a theme evoking distance and melancholy before melding fully into Ms. Peacock's sad song. Koglmann also briefly quotes several selections from Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain before allowing Peacock's bass to lead him back toward the original melody. Bley shades each of the trumpet lines almost imperceptibly as Peacock takes the trio down the labyrinth of this song's subtle complexity. Bley enters fully about midway through, changing tempo and mode to carry the improvisation off into yet another songlike structure before the trio fades into silence. "Kid Dynamite" is an example of Ms. Peacock's humor and interest in cultural Americana. The opening theme stated by Bley comes straight out of Copland filtered through Fats Waller. The blues are jubilant here, spiked and adorned with all manner of swing and flourish. Each chorus pushes the threshold a bit until "Kid Dynamite" concludes with a collage of smattered notes and chords from the entire trio. But perhaps "Albert's Love Theme" best defines the lyrical and emotional concerns that Ms. Peacock's songs deal with. Here, Koglmann's lonely flügelhorn introduces a lyric phrase so fraught with melancholy and tenderness that it nearly disintegrates as Peacock's bass enters the tune. Breadth, range, and harmony are all contained in these simple lines. The tension held between both Koglmann and Peacock is nearly unbearable before the track whispers to a close, completely unresolved. As the record closes with the second take of "Touching" (this time with just Koglmann and Peacock), the listener has encountered a world of musical sound so completely focused within that, for a few moments, it is difficult to hear or see anything outside of its muted colors and textures. There isn't anything else to play after Annette that wouldn't seem superfluous or bombastic. With this album, the trio of Bley, Peacock, and Koglmann has created more than just a tribute to a great artist -- it has offered a look deep inside the musical psyche of a true original.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek