Trio 3 + Jason Moran

Refraction - Breakin' Glass
Intakt CD 217

By Ken Waxman

By the numbers: Trio3 has been a band for 27 years, has released eight CDs, features its third pianist guest on Refraction and with him has created a session that’s almost 100% satisfying.

Veterans of the jazz wars, saxophonist Oliver Lake, 70, bassist Reggie Workman, 75, and drummer Andrew Cyrille, 73 have been part of vital ensembles as disparate as John Coltrane’s, Cecil Taylor and the World Saxophone Quartet as well as their own bands. Guest pianist Jason Moran, a generation younger, is a MacArthur fellow and artistic advisor for the Kennedy Center. Yet he fits snugly onto the piano bench previously occupied by Gerri Allen and Irène Schweizer because of a shared interest with Trio3 in the diversity of jazz.

Moran, who has recently been exploring the music of Fats Waller, and the trio members who apprenticed in the club scene that spanned jazzmen like Waller, notably connect on tunes such as Cyrille’s “AM 2½” and Workman’s “Summit Conference”. Both tracks manage to exuberantly suture insistent swing with echoes of roadhouse R&B, courtesy of Lake’s mercurial alto playing and flowing tremolo lines from the pianist, with unexpected advanced sequences. Moran’s riffs and runs suggest Herbie Nichols during his breakthrough solo on the first tune, while the saxophonist insinuates quotes from “Focus on Sanity” into his playing on the second one. Overall, the CD has the feeling of a relaxed club date. Not surprisingly, the four played Birdland for a week before recording.

With “Listen” Cyrille confirms his effortless percussion command of all parts of his kit, underscored by Moran’s keyboard pumps; while Lake’s slippery tongued, staccato squeals on “All Decks” demonstrate how a blues line can be thorny and experimental without losing in roots simplicity. If the CD has a weakness it’s Moran’s composition “Foot Under Foot” which is overly studied and sedate until Lake goads the pianist into unison spikiness.

Finally the CD is bookended by two spoken-word pieces that celebrate jazz’s past and continued growth. The Lake-articulated title tune looks back on the resiliency of his family striving to attain economic security. Meanwhile Cyrille’s “High Priest” is an unsentimental requiem for the late David S. Ware’s talents expressed through wapish reed slurs and joyous drum clatters.

The playing and musical thinking throughout this CD is so cohesive that the band could be dubbed Trio4 rather than Trio3+1.

Tracks: Refraction – Breakin' Glass; Cycle III; Luthers Lament; AM 2½; Summit Conference; All Decks; Listen; Vamp; Foot Under Foot; High Priest

Personnel: Oliver Lake: alto and sopranino saxophone, voice; Jason Moran: piano; Reggie Workman: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums, voice

—For The New York City Jazz Record November 2013