Rara Avis represents the final chapter in the ten year, five recording life of the Clusone Trio. Choosing bird song themes was a natural for this band of ruffians and pranksters. Their idiomatic use of joke, anger, and argument toward one another is all put into perspective on a session where all the originals and covers all reflect the influence of heaven's own creatures. The set kicks off with the most bluesed-out reading of Gershwin's "Buzzard Song" ever recorded. Moore slips from blues to swing imperceptibly, and then back again. Bennink follows him with brushes on the toms and high-hat as Reijseger plays chords in harmony and then bass on his cello before plucking out a blues counterpoint to Moore. Truly wonderful. This is followed by two beautifully crazy "bird jams," or improvisations, one of which, "Yellow Bird," is supposedly adapted from a West Indian folk song -- adapted being the key word in the phrase. There is much anarchy a before and after the tune's melodic body exerts itself, and then almost ghostly, transparent, and then gives way to the Clusone's wildly inventive read of "El Condor Pasa" -- not the version Paul Simon sang on Bridge Over Troubled Water, this one retains the original melody and becomes a taut jazz workout for Bennink and Reijseger to paint upon in quadruple time. But it doesn't stop here. Clusone, who were all powerful musically and could arrange and play virtually anything ever written between them, sing "bird songs" by composers from MacGregor Woods (they play a vaudevillian "When The Red, Red, Robin...") to Steve Lacy, from Johnnie Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael (the smoky tenderness in "Baltimore Oriole" is almost heartbreaking) to Saint-Saens to Irving Berlin (their inside-out "My Bird of Paradise" could have been played by Ben Webster's quartet and sung by Bing Crosby it's so seamless). And there are a couple of Moore originals tossed in for measure. What it means is simple: that Clusone were the rarest of birds, they knew no home territory; the world of music was their nest, which they built from all of its elements. Humor and flight are what kept them refreshed before they, like all things impermanent, exhausted themselves personally and musically. If you are a Clusone fan, this will not disappoint you; if you are Clusone curious, this is a very fine place to start.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek