3D: Dąbrowski Davis Drury

Vermilion Tree
For Tune Records 0030 021

By Ken Waxman

Ad-hoc groups made up of players from many countries are an accepted part of improvised music. What’s more significant is a CD like Vermilion Tree, where the disparate trio members create as if they’re in a long-time relationship.

The session came about because Polish trumpeter Tomasz Dąbrowski spent time in New York and hooked up with local percussionist Andrew Drury and pianist Kris Davis. The result is a kaleidoscope of 14 tunes, mostly group compositions, except for five by the trumpeter and one by Drury. Some are duos between Dąbrowski and one or the other player; at around one minute each, a few merely express one thought.

Crucially the track which allows the most extensive interaction is Drury’s “Modules/Moduły”. With motifs developed at different speeds, the exposition depends on weighted equilibrium between Dąbrowski and Davis. Beginning with the trumpeter’s note smears plus keyboard cascades, and ending with chiming keys and moderated brass exhaling, the absorbing mid-section truly defines the piece. With roller coaster-like motion, the trumpeter moves from agitated triplets to single note puffs to plunger upturns, paced all the while by galloping swirls and key clinking from Davis. Drury limits himself to the odd swizzle cymbal scratch here, and he’s similarly self-effacing on the remainder of the session. In contrast Dąbrowski is front-and-centre throughout. Able to showcase half-valve effects and widening tones with the same facility, he brings a sense of uncompromised swing to even muted solos; plus he can push aside sophistication to snarl stridently if needed.

A couple of Dąbrowski’s compositions define his comfort in opposing situations. “Mattock Phrasemonger/Przemądrzała Motyka” is a ballad, calmly built out of placid notes, but with occasional pinched blasts revealing a biting undercurrent. Davis’ low-frequency strums are almost soothing, but her tougher key thrusts keep the line animated. “Ruddy Rudi/Rudy Rudi” is unabashed jazz-swing. Dąbrowski’s buoyant brassiness intensifies his flutter-tongued theme, which is advanced solidly by Drury’s pseudo-martial beat. Davis decorates the line with pressurized runs plus near-lagging chords that imposingly catches up to the others before upsetting the arrangement. Eventually the trumpet and piano ingeniously back out of the tune in perfect symmetry.

Taut or touching, Vermilion Tree can appeal to the musical tree hugger as well as the tree hacker. Since this sapling was planted in 2012 though, a CD highlighting the trio’s subsequent growth would be welcomed.

Tracks: Fawn/Płowy; Vermilion Tree/Cynobrowe Drzewo; Dun/Gniady; Leaden/Ołowiany; Hazel/Piwny; Modules/Moduły; Mauve/Fioletoworóżowy; Puce/Brązowofioletowy; Mattock Phrasemonger/Przemądrzała Motyka; Livid/Siny; Taupe/Szarobrązowy; Ruddy Rudi/Rudy Rudi; Apricot, Apricot/Morelowa Morela; Tawny/Śniady

Personnel: Tomasz Dąbrowski (trumpet); Kris Davis (piano) and Andrew Drury (drums)

—For The New York City Jazz Record January 2015