John Wolf Brennan

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Inasmuch as pianist John Wolf Brennan's solo piano recordings can be -- but aren't always -- a terrible snooze for their pretension and gimmicky tropes, his collaborative recordings are more often than not filled with a kind of magic because his collaborators usually mellow out his most excessive tendencies, while bringing to the fore his God-given gift for subtle articulation and nuance. This set, with three duos between Brennan and saxophonist Simon Picard and trios with drummer Eddie Prévost added, are among the most profoundly innovative, subtly articulated, and mellifluously flowing baskets of ideas and resolutions of his career. Of the duos, there is the stunning "Mr. Vertigo" on which Picard moves from his normally subtle use of arpeggios in the middle register to an all-out screamer and bar-walker in the honking lower register, a flying high-roller in the upper, and back to middle as Brennan shapes chords out of his expressions and carries them toward full fruition in the enrapt emotion of the piece. On the six-part "Six Memos for the New Millennium" -- after Italo Calvino -- the trio moves toward a synthesis of vanguard idealism, rampant futurism, and lyrical improvisation. In particular, Eddie Prévost's playing reveals once again why his drumming style is essential for this type of trio investigation: he has single-pointed concentration on dynamics and timbral motifs. Brennan offers the piano's entire body as a bass ground for architecting new modalities in harmony and legato interaction between himself and Picard. This is music beyond the language to describe it and improvisation so fresh and inspired it deserves to be heard by anyone interested in new music.

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