Jazz Magnet Records JAM-2007

Economies of scale in the jazz world mean that most bands have shrunk to trio size. Only so many colors can be contributed by three improvisers, though, and unless exceptional musicians are involved, repetition and predictable sounds often result.

So exult in the talents of the musicians who comprise the trio featured on this exceptional disc. Drummer Andrew Cyrille, the eldest, is best known for the time he spent with Cecil Taylor in the 1980s; since that time he has led his own band and been featured with a panoply of other improvisers. Anchor, at different times, of two fabled quartets — Anthony Braxton's and John Zorn's Masada — bassist Mark Dresser's

Other roles have included work with everyone from the freest New Thinger to the most compositionally oriented New music exponent. In the forefront of experimentation since his St. Louis days when he traded licks with members of the Black Artists Group, multi-reedman Marty Ehrlich probably vies with Dresser for the number of important sessions on which he's been featured.

Like Napoleon's army each man also functions as if he was an entire platoon: arco and pizzicato gives Dresser two roles; drums and percussion doubles Cyrille's reach, while Ehrlich's soprano and alto saxophones, flute and clarinet could turn him into the a reed version of the Fantastic Four.

Free jazz economics played a part in C/D/E's formation. It's a trio because in 1996, the three couldn't afford to fly trumpeter Bobby Bradford from the West Coast for a quartet gig. They liked what they heard in this configuration though, and have played together on-and-off ever since. Ehrlich wrote four of the compositions on the disc, Dresser and Cyrille three each, with the 10th Thomas Chapin's "Aeolus" done by the trio as a threnody for that departed reedman.

As varied as the members' accomplishments, the tunes range all over the map as well. Dresser's "BBJC", for instance, could easily be classified as a hard edge Dixieland. Here the composer slaps the bass like a futuristic Pops Foster, Ehrlich's po-mo clarinet glissandos evoke an earlier era and Cyrille's steady time keeping cleaves to the beat without overpowering it. Cyrille's "Aubade", on the other hand, has an Oriental tinge made real with a variegated drum pattern and tingling cymbals sounds facing Eastwards. Earlier Ehrlich exhibits a hunting horn tone on the title tune.

Anyone who shies away from so-called avant- jazz should play Cyrille's "A Simple Melody" to see what he or she is missing. Ehrlich, on alto, comes across as an updated Cannonball Adderley, with the same mixture of old time rasp and freebop phrasing; Dresser alternately plucks and bows the melody and Cyrille jollies it along as if he were playing in a modern blues band.

As good as it is, C/D/E was recorded in 1998 ,and for that reason it only rates a B+. For with three more years of experience under their collective belts, imagine how good the band sounds today.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. View Form The Point 2. Aeolus 3. BBJC 4. A Simple Melody 5. For Bradford 6. Aubade 7. C/D/E 8. Point Of View 9. AM 2 1/2 10. 2 For Cyrille

Personnel: Marty Ehrlich (soprano and alto saxophone, clarinet, flute); Mark Dresser (bass); Andrew Cyrille (drums)