Charlotte Greve/Vinnie Sperrazza/Chris Tordini

The Choir Invisible
Intakt CD 347

Claude Tchamitchian Trio

Poetic Power

Émouvance emv 1042

With an inverse number of European and American members these saxophone/bass/drums trios take a symmetrical approach to interpreting original material. In fact the bands’ make up varies more than the sound of their urbane and knowing albums.

Poetic Power involves two veteran improvisers from France, bassist Claude Tchamitchian, who composed all six tunes and has worked with Joe McPhee among many others; and alto saxophonist Christophe Monniot, who has played with Daniel Humair. Drummer is American Tom Rainey, who has backed scores of innovators on both side of the Atlantic. Younger in age, but not musical scope are The Choir Invisible’s members: Americans, bassist Chris Tordini, who has played with Andy Milne and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, who plays with Jacob Sacks and German, New York-based alto saxophonist Charlotte Greve, who regularly works with Marc Muellbauer. All contributed compositions.

Major portions of the Tchamitchian Trio’s strategy maintain the fine balance among formal, conventional and exploratory textures while concentrating on group cohesion so solos are brief breaks not extended showpieces. Still Rainey’s ingenious and paced cymbal and percussion work is a constant presence throughout. For instance, on the introductory “Katsounine” his rim shots and cymbal bounces upset the bassist's stentorian pulse, pushing the exposition into a groove. From that point on Monniot’s pinched reed tone that’s half Tab Smith and half Eric Dolphy works its way to multiphonics, trills and tongue pops mixing the poetic with the percussive. Eventually his widening timbres connect with mallet-driven Mylar smacks and billowing string sweeps

The alto saxophonist’s notes as split tones or rounded movement can shot skyward with double-tongued variations or are conventional enough to recap heads. Yet the characteristic of this performance is how each angle of the trio triangle is in constant motion, with brief interludes to establish shifting identities. The hard-hitting bass and drum backbeat that sets up the exposition that characterizes the final “Unnecessary Fights” can one-third of way through the extended “Shadow's Breath” change moods to a formalized chamber-music-like narrative with muted beats and shimmering bowed bass behind clarion reed pitches. Changing gears once again to mix a swing beat with heighted corkscrew reed variations at the finale, that tune follows “So Close, So Far”, an exemplar of the trio members’ studied transformations. Beginning with contrasting string twangs and sweetened sax puffs it appears headed to ballad territory, then the tempo picks up with reed honks and snarls adumbrating a clattering yet balanced drum solo until thumping bass strings signal a return to a smoother, lighter theme.

There are similar quick-change antics and cooperation on The Choir Invisible, although the tripartite identity isn’t fully established until the third track. By “Low” however her reed arabesques lock in with Tordini’s careful rebounds and hardened drum slaps. Maintaining a looser, but paradoxically more straight-ahead interface than the Tchamitchian Trio, Greve/Sperrazza/Tordini additionally address the material from varied sonic perspectives. Probably the most notable occurs on the bassist’s oddly-titled composition “e(“. An instance of sophisticated swing, the scene is set with a looping pizzicato bass line that is followed by cymbal echoes and drum thumps. The saxophonist’s subsequent spinning tones echo cunningly over a repeated bass vamp. The trio also deftly confirms its versatility on “Zupplo”, the previous track, which appears to be another mainstream-headed tune. Soon, however, Greve’s repeated tonal spills and the bassist’s string pumps move the tempo from walk to canter without losing the flow as expressively intense variables are introduced.

Whether these trio programs result from one musician’s compositional vision or point to the improvisational talents of three in-the-know players, the sax-bass-drum format is flexible enough to express both visions,

-Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Poetic: 1. Katsounine 2. L’Envolée Belle 3. So Close, So Far 4. Shadow's Breath 5. Le Temps D’Un Regard 6. Unnecessary Fights

Personnel: Poetic: Christophe Monniot (alto saxophone); Claude Tchamitchian (bass) and Tom Rainey (drums)

Track Listing: Choir: 1. Chant 2. These Materials 3. Low 4. 1.7 5. Change Your Name 6. Zuppio 7. e( 8. Daily Task 9. The Choir Invisible.

Personnel: Choir: Charlotte Greve (alto saxophone); Chris Tordini (bass) and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums)