Jeff Cosgrove/Matthew Shipp/William Parker

Alternating Currents
Grizzley Music 002

Benjamin Duboc/Didier Lasserre/Henri Roger

Parole Plongée

Facing You/IMR 004

Taking one of Jazz’s classic formations as its starting point(s), two piano trios bring novel ideas and completely different approaches to the standard piano/bass/drums ensemble. Intriguingly each of these combos – one American and one French – adds a fresh player to a duo that over time has fused into an unbeatable combination. Notwithstanding the imposing sounds made by each group, the feeling remains that one hitherto unproven trio ends up sounding as if the new player is a guest at his own party, while the other engagement is more organic.

Consisting of one massive and two shorter improvisations, Alternating Currents again demonstrates pianist Matthew Shipp’s mature improvisational smarts as well as his close interaction with bassist William Parker, with whom he has been playing for around a quarter century. The two New Yorkers are aided and abetted by drummer Jeff Cosgrove from Washington, D.C., who in the past has worked with everyone from Blues-Rocker Rory Block, to mainstream trumpeter Ingrid Jensen. This exercise in spontaneous composition was facilitated through Cosgrove’s studies with Free Jazz master drummer Andrew Cyrille. Cosgrove’s contributions are needed, but throughout he appears to be struggling with a way to insinuate his stylistic considerations among those from the other two.

Cosgrove’s drums may introduce the massive – nearly 39 minute – “Bridges of Tomorrow”, but after that he and Parker clear out of the way as Shipp’s high-intensity whorls and whirls define the narrative with hearty and roomy excursions all over the keyboard and within. The pianist’s metronomic pacing is shadowed every step of the way by the bassist’s carefully measured pumps. Tastefully limiting himself to brushed swipes and echoing rolls, the drummer’s percussion affirmation is really only upfront in the mid-section, which is most closely wedded to Boppish architecture. Even so the sophisticated swing inferences he and Parker manipulate on the bottom are nearly obliterated by Ship in full flight. Flying harmonies and cadenzas plus unusual voicings are only slightly moderated by the pianist’s judicious use of linear patterns bringing a touch of romance to his head-snapping speed. Tensile and triple-stopping, the bassist`s string work eventually meets Shipp’s tremolo asides, reaching a crescendo of multi-note pressure that is finally dissipated with a return to staccato note elaborations. The final section appears both elastically open yet revved up enough to continue ad infinitum.

With the title track more of the same, the only place Cosgrove really gets to outline his sparkling responsive rumbles is on “Victoria”, composed by fellow drummer Paul Motian. Part of his audibility is that Shipp’s playing takes on a more dreamy coloration here.

In contrast, playing an accepted lead instrument, Monaco-based pianist Henri Roger assembles a tripartite trio session on Parole Plongée. Self-taught and someone who has matched wits with accomplished improvisers such as bassist Barre Phillips and drummer Bruno Tocanne, Roger overcomes any restrictive rhythm section tendencies that could be exhibited by bassist Benjamin Duboc and drummer Didier Lasserre. A long-time rhythm duo, Duboc and Lasserre have backed sound explores like baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro in the past.

With Duboc’s thick strumming as supple as it is stentorian, ringing staccato lines from the pianist are needed to wrench the impetus from the bassist on “Sables” following a Scott LaFaro-like thematic impetus. Yet Roger, who agreed to do this session after being contacted by the bassist who heard a solo piano invention on the internet, acquits himself with little strain. Almost immediately on this track, Roger outlines a parallel narrative which speedily locks in with Duboc’s theme upping the tension, while intensifying the swing. Tellingly it’s Roger’s soundboard rumble which creates the resounding climax. “Altermutations” verifies that the pianist can maintain this directness in balladic form. He contributes to this tremolo romp by melding passing chords, backed by Lesserre’s sizzle cymbals.

Overall, though, the key track is the expansive “Ré-Horizontalisé”, which would make some figure this trio formation followed years of interaction. Balanced in each aspect, Roger’s modulation between impressionistic and impactful voicing connects easily with the others’ strategies, As Lasserre’s cymbal resonate, and Duboc displays tough string stops, Roger sparks the performance with excursions into the treble clef, quoting “Surrey with a Fringe on Top” for a split-second. Heartily appending contemporary Bop to the bassist and drummer’s more overt avant-gardisms, the three eventually create a showcase that’s powerfully unique without being frighteningly obtuse.

Roger, Duboc and Lasserre have serendipitously come up with a notable addition to the Jazz piano trio literature. Plus Shipp, Parker and Cosgrove are assured in their improvisations as well. However in assessing Alternating Currents, one would hope that after this baptism by fire (music) the drummer would be more assured the next time he records with the others.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Alternating: 1. Bridges of Tomorrow 2. Alternating Current 3. Victoria

Personnel: Alternating: Matthew Shipp (piano); William Parker (bass) and Jeff Cosgrove (drums)

Track Listing: Parole: 1. Sables 2. Altermutations 3. Thé ou Café? 4. Ré-Horizontalisé

Personnel: Parole: Henri Roger (piano); Benjamin Duboc (bass) and Didier Lasserre (drums)