Howard Riley / John Tilbury / Keith Tippett

Another Part of the Story

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Strange on paper, this studio session gets disconcerting on record. First of all, there is something luxurious, almost decadent about a piano trio: the geometry of three grand pianos arranged together, the richness of the sounds (marvelously captured by engineer Steve Lowe). Throw in Keith Tippett and Howard Riley, two of the loudest pianists in free improvisation, and you wonder if there will be any room left for John Tilbury. Riley and Tippett have worked and recorded as a duo in the past (Interchange is a pretty nice session from 1993). They complement each other well, Riley with his jazzier cadences and mock instant chord changes, Tippett with his feverish Sturm und Drang playing. AMM's Tilbury is surely capable of producing loud sounds (and occasionally willing to; just listen to some passages of Duos for Doris, his recording with Keith Rowe), but one usually envisions him in a much quieter -- some would say subtler -- role. That's what happens here. He tries to develop delicate tapestries of sound, using preparations on the strings or playing them with drum sticks, but for the most part the other two bury him alive, even when they too work inside the piano. They are bombastic players, like it or not (and there is a lot to like, actually). Tilbury's contribution would have been essential to the music had he been placed in the center (Riley's designated stool as the session organizer). There, he would have created a space of fragility that would have articulated Riley and Tippett's flailing limbs. But tucked in the right stereo channel, his playing sounds like an aside in theater. There is one exception to this, the 21-minute "Being Prepared," in which Tilbury engages the other two more vehemently and with fine results. All that being said, Another Part of the Story is another fine release from Emanem, but followers of Tilbury may find it a bit frustrating.

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