Urs Leimgruber/Jacques Demierre/Barre Philips

1→ 3 ╠ 2:↔1
Jazz Werkstatt JW 156

By Ken Waxman

After 15 years of continuous, though not exclusive, touring, the trio of American bassist Barre Phillip and two Swiss musicians, tenor and soprano saxophonist Urs Leimgruber and pianist Jacques Demierre, have fused into an organism whose limbs and thought processes are perfectly attuned. Oddly titled, 1→ 3╠ 2:↔1is the trio’s third and newest CD and it ably demonstrates interactive skill. It was recorded back in 2012 when senior member Phillips was a mere 76. He turns 81 on October 27.

Phillips who has lived in Europe since 1967, recorded with Archie Shepp in 1965 and released Journal Violone the first LP of solo bass improvisation in 1968, is matched in innovation by Leimgruber, who after dabbling in free-fusion with the band OM in the ‘70s, has become one of the most consistent reed innovators alongside Evan Parker and others; while Demierre has a parallel career as a respected composer of notated music,

Moving in and out of pure abstraction, the CD’s four tracks add up to an exercise in singular timbres and small gestures, but the performances are still effervescent enough to extrude real emotions. This is most apparent on the concluding “Wark”, where like deadpan comedians each player gently mocks the others’ dizzying sonic capacity even as he accompanies it. Phillips’ chopping comments on Leimgruber’s tongue vibrations that soon flutter into aviary approximations remain solid as the reedist’s tone segments. Additionally mordant piano key slapping starkly and sardonically underline the others’ timbral differences.

Demierre’s innate keyboard formalism is the steadying influence throughout. When, for instance, his rumbles from the piano’s bottom tones on “Humming Hubs” root the unfolding theme which is being disrupted by almost C&W-like twangs from the bassist and shrills from the soprano saxophone that could come from a maddened mosquito, Leimgruber and Phillips burlesque the piano exposition with irregular chirps and pops like recalcitrant kids until three-part harmonies, brings the parts into alignment by the ending. Not always prepared to be a sonic sourpuss however, on “Hosses Held” the pianist meets rodent-like reed squeaks and sniffs by shaping a selection of tremolo plinks, pummels and pulls into a compelling showcase whose antecedents are as much Cecil (Taylor) as (John) Cage. Still the set’s strength is in group dynamics not individual showiness.

At the start of the same track Phillips can be heard asking the others if they mind him turning his back from time to time. For the listener the answer is “no” –just as long as he keeps contributing his honed skills to notably individualistic projects like this one.

Tracks: Humming Hubs; Hosses Held; Glorious Gusts; Wark!

Personnel: Urs Leimgruber: soprano, tenor saxophones; Jacques Demierre: piano; Barre Philips: bass

—For The New York City Jazz Record October 2015