Although Andrew Bishop formed his reeds/drums/bass trio Bishop/Cleaver/Flood in Ann Arbor, Michigan back in 1996, the avant jazz outfit has been featured on only two albums since then, 2005's Time & Imaginary Time and 2015's De Profundis, both released by Envoi. The paucity of B/C/F recorded output is unsurprising given Bishop's many irons in the fire as educator, composer, and collaborator -- not to mention dedicated family man. And although reedman Bishop and bassist Tim Flood remain Ann Arbor area residents, Detroit-born drummer Gerald Cleaver is now a Brooklynite, and one of creative improvised music's most in-demand percussionists. So one reason to celebrate De Profundis' arrival is the mere fact that these three musicians were able to schedule studio recording time together, but more satisfying is the evidence the album presents that Bishop, Cleaver, and Flood remain as intuitive as ever. That holds true across a record wide-ranging enough to view both the centuries-old music of Renaissance composer Josquin Des Prez and the joys and challenges of contemporary family life through an avant jazz lense. The De Profundis title is derived from a Des Prez motet, but Bishop ultimately used a two-voice passage from the composer as source material for a six-part suite heard here, and also chose to intersperse the suite's individual movements between five "domestic bliss" pieces that provide generally upbeat contrast.
The track sequencing is interesting, seemingly calculated to deliver the sometimes measured pacing, deep atmospheres, and timbral/textural explorations of "De Profundis I-VI" in discrete doses best appreciated with some "jazzier" leavening scattered between them. That's not to suggest the "De Profundis" movements approach their source inspiration in a conventionally "classical" manner -- this is far from a Hilliard Ensemble album -- but rather that Bishop has been successful in imbuing these tracks with a certain air of reverence even when straying far from Des Prez's motifs, whether exploring bass clarinet multiphonics in "Introit," skittering on flute over Flood's arco overtones on "Fleeting Light," or unleashing a Coltrane-esque tenor sax wail on "The Commute." The compositional thread linking these pieces surfaces most explicitly in the opening "Introit" and the final "Benedictus," providing a nice sense of thematic cohesiveness from which Bishop nevertheless intentionally strays on the five non-"De Profundis" tracks, where jazz fans from post-bop to free might find their greatest satisfaction. There are dedications to wife, kids, and "all parents" on three of the five, whose highlights include Bishop's piquant soprano uncoiling over Cleaver's steady midtempo shuffling rhythm on "There Are Many Monkeys" and especially a pair of fine tenor features, "Now What?" and "Falling Up," the latter of which finds the trio both knotty and swinging, spiraling into free territory bracketed by a theme that seems to leap over itself with exuberance. Here, despite his multi-reed proficiency, Andrew Bishop emerges as a jazz tenor man first and foremost, approaching traditions considerably more recent than Josquin Des Prez with a different sort of reverence.