Muhal Richard Abrams/George Lewis/Roscoe Mitchell

Pi Recordings Pi 22

Summit meeting among three veterans of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM), the five elongated, spontaneous improvisations showcase the empathetic interaction only available to mature players who know intimately each other’s idiosyncrasies.

This no exercise in nostalgia however. AACM founder Muhal Richard Abrams, 74, utilizes percussion implements and bamboo flute along with aggressive pianism; Roscoe Mitchell, 63, vibrates and rattles hollow-sounding percussion as well as tracing unique paths with soprano and alto saxophones; and George Lewis, 52, spends as much time triggering pulsations with his laptop computer as vibrating chromatic trombone lines.

Thus hair-trigger sonic reactions can as easily involve a contrapuntal duet between malleable rhythm tones and sequenced electronics as portamento keyboard slides, dog-like yelps and animal squeaks from the reedist and the trombone’s braying triplet slurs. Abrams’ timbre command is such as well, that at points he appears to be trading double counterpoint licks with himself.

Most notable track is the nearly-18½ minute “Dramaturns”, a Lewis/Abrams duet that encompasses blues and baroque acoustic inferences plus blurry electronic pulsations. Rococo trombone grace notes join metronomic piano coloring at the top, until clouds of dense choir-like laptop surges meet staccato, double-quick, repetitive note clusters from Abrams. Broken chord interface turn to polyphonic harmonies by the finale.

Allowing separate musical agendas to simultaneously evolve during these trios and duets confirms that risk-taking impulses still predominate for these veterans. The palpable excitement lies in hearing the three shape the dissonant tones into distinctive sound sculptures.

— Ken Waxman

For Whole Note Vol. 12 #6