Lerner/Filiano/Grassi

Live at Edgefest
NoBusiness NBLP 90

By Ken Waxman

Although a tale of two cities – three if you count the Ann Arbor, Mich. recording location – this CD confirms that Toronto pianist Marilyn Lerner has cemented a mutually beneficial musical relationship with New Yorkers, bassist Ken Filiano and percussionist Lou Grassi. Like a contemporary auto that doesn’t stint on speed and comfort just because it’s equipped with up-to-date safety features, on this its third disc, the LFG trio expands the effortless, extrasensory perception of the classic piano trio with atonal musings and reflective extended techniques.

With each member given space to introduce and consequently deepen the inferences in four improvisations, the steak as well as the swizzle is present, whether Filiano’s ragged pumps output snarling counterpoint to Lerner’s pressurized cadenzas, or her barely-there keyboard grazing is animated by Grassi’s measured cymbal splashes. Sometimes the trio flirts with conventional motifs, as when one theme on “A Point of Infinite Destiny” is reminiscent of a crime-show soundtrack. But, battering ram-like energy from all concerned means that this tremolo syncopation climaxes with barely restrained timbre bubbling rather than a neatly sympathetic ending.

More exciting still is “Event Horizon”, where Grassi spins scene-setting clatters, chops and whacks from tuned gongs into a full-kit solo that is the equivalent of each eye reflecting contradictory images and refining them into a complementary landscape. Lerner’s subsequent keyboard cascades slow the theme down into overlapping textures that are as mighty as they are mellow. Ending the CD with plucks harmonized from bass strings and inner piano wires plus a resonating cymbal slap, the continued maturation of trio’s approach confirms that it can improvise resolutely at many pitches and tempos.

-A MusicWorks Exclusive Spotlight Review October 2016