Trio Red Space

Fields of Flat
Relay Recordings 013

Themroc 3

Rocthem!

WhyPlayJazz RS 029

Reducing music to the rudiments of percussion and horns are these two differently constituted trios which like visual artists who only deal with the shape of lines, demonstrate that focused purity can be all that’s needed for notable creativity. Lacking any chordal instrument, each of the trios still overcomes the monochromatic aspects of such performances with unique strategies. Trio Red Space immerses itself in the breakneck tempos and extended techniques of Free Jazz. Meanwhile Themroc 3 traffics in brisk, jubilant fanfares that wouldn’t be out of place in a big top performance.

Consisting of three mainstays of the Berlin scene – Germans, alto saxophonist/clarinetist Benjamin Weidekamp and drummer Michael Griener plus Austrian trumpeter Richard Koch, Themroc 3’s distinctive name comes from Claude Faraldo’s 1973 absurdist comedy starring Michel Piccoli about a man who rejects bourgeois life and turns his apartment into a virtual cave. Much more sophisticated than Piccoli’s Cro-Magnon, the trio turns out eight herky-jerky pseudo marches and jump tunes, composed by either the drummer or reedist. Like the short story writer who resists entreaties to create novels, the three utilize brevity, but add a spirit of ecstatic abandon to their often-chromatic romps. Most of tunes deal with the symmetry expressed when plunger brass tones and reed flutter tonguing intersect. At times reminiscent of off-centre Dixieland backing, Griener’s skillful rhythmic dislocation means that beats skitter from martial to mulitphonic on a track such as the self-evident “Marsch”, or introduce expressive splats and claps via stick manipulation plus a midsection balladic texture on “Reiter der drei Tintenherren”.

Considering most of the CD’s tracks advance at Usain Bolt-like speed – and in the case of a tune such as “Balkon” appear furiously intent on breaking his sprinter records – the gentler passages are sometimes masked. Blended melodiousness resulting from Weidekamp's rococo clarinet sprinkles decorating Koch’s straightforward thematic narrative enlivened with the occasional drum pop characterize “Rocthem” for instance. More distinctively, “Kott-Kodar/Subotnik” not only snakes through a distinctive theme, but also finds the trumpeter varying his Harmon-muted tone with clown like horn honks. Meanwhile as the saxophonist exposes the bites and swallows from inner body tube experimentation, he demonstrates that these extended techniques can still produce a joyous narrative.

Despite the flying saucer picture on the Fields of Flat’s CD cover, Trio Red Space’s five tracks are more primitivist than those on Themroc 3’s set. But that’s because the exciting themes expressed by the Chicago-based trio expand on the stropped-down concepts advanced by tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler and trombonist Roswell Rudd in the 1960s. Soprano and tenor saxophonist Mars Williams can pull off blistering, altissimo solos with the speed of a fire engine heading off to a blaze, but on tracks such as “Mind, Space” his wide-open tone mixes with trombonist Jeb Bishop’s raspy flutters for a warbling theme that appears to extend “Ol’ Man River”. More crucially, drummer Tim Daisy, who has an association with Ken Vandermark as do the other two, clips, claps and crunches with a technical sophistication that would have been put-of-place in the anything goes New Thing era.

Although some of the tracks such as “Onwards” start off with a mid-tempo solo from Daisy and then quicken to thump, squeeze and crackle like a New York Art Quartet, screeching saxophone runs are tempered with loose percussion bounces that redirect the overriding theme into straight-ahead output. Thus restraint as well as riotness is on the agenda. You can hear this most clearly on “Coal Dust” where the constant interjection of horn smears and cries plus percussion press rolls and smashes introduces unexpected variations just as the theme is pulled further and further along without shattering. Like experimental architects who manage to construct a serviceable building out of never-before-imagined material, Trio Red Space stays true both to experimentation and application.

Each of these CDs clocks in on either side of the half-hour mark. But their brevity adds to their appeal. Concentrated music making not overlong themes or endless solos are the order(s) of the day.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Fields: 1. Pro Flowers 2. Mind, Space 3. Coal Dust 4.Fields of Flat 5. Onwards

Personnel: Fields: Jeb Bishop (trombone); Mars Williams (soprano and tenor saxophones) and Tim Daisy (drums and radios)

Track Listing: Rocthem: 1. Post für den Tiger 2. Jippi Brown’s 18th Birthday 3. Marsch 4. Reiter der drei Tintenherren 5. Kott-Kodar/Subotnik 6. Unterwasserballett 7. Rocthem 8. Balkon

Personnel: Rocthem: Richard Koch (trumpet); Benjamin Weidekamp (alto saxophone and clarinet) and Michael Griener (drums)