Maya Records MCD 0701

Finding a role within an already existing musical partnership can be problematic. When the relationship has lasted most of three decades it’s that much riskier. Yet as the nine instant compositions on this CD demonstrate, Catalan pianist Augustí Fernández creates no fissure when he performs with the long-standing British trio of saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist Barry Guy and percussionist Paul Lytton.

It helps that the pianist, along with Lytton, is a member of extended Guy and Parker ensembles. Yet he’s such an accomplished stylist, whose collaborators range from Free Jazz bassist William Parker to New music flautist Jane Rigler, that his input enhances the tracks so that each part of the paradigm seems indivisible.

Parker’s serpentine trilling on the aptly-titled “Open Systems”, for instance, is backed Guy’s by blunt strumming and Fernández’s solitary key pressure, as if both are utilizing the same string set. As the pointillist mixture accelerates, impelled by Lytton’s chain-rattling and pitter-pattering skins, the pianist’s metronomic lilt allows for a quicker pace, but without losing any of the tune’s subtleties. Similarly, Lytton could be whacking steel pans as Parker vibrates constricted timbres around his tongue on the polyphonic “This One is for Kowald”, but until identifiable piano cadences kick in, the spiccato shrills heard could be bass string strokes, mouthpiece whistles or internal piano strings stopping.

Probably the clearest indication of Fernández’s simpatico internalizing of the trio’s improvisational ethic is that on the four tracks where he works in duo or trio combinations, it’s as if the quartet textures can still be heard. Especially burrowing within the piano’s bowls, astoundingly the resulting stuck and stopped overtones nearly compensate for Lytton or Guy’s absence.

— Ken Waxman