Friday, January 17, 2020

Jim Black Trio - Reckon (Intakt Records, 2020)

This was an album that takes the standard piano trio format and really runs with it. With Jim Black on drums, Thomas Morgan on bass and Elias Stemeseder on piano, their imagination is really the limit. Recorded quickly over the course of two days, it's clear that the band was inspired by the company and the content and it shows in the results. "Astrono Said So" features nimble, intricate bass and drums, where the piano enters gradually, building a close knit three way conversation, and develops a ever faster flow. The music becomes quite open and free sounding with thick elastic bass yoking the propulsive drumming and piano playing, becoming slightly frayed at the end, and returning to the original opening. Spare and subdued, "Tripped Overhue" offers music that floats with a gentle melodic sensibility, becoming gradually more forceful as the performance develops, waxing and waning with snappy bass playing, drumming and fluid keyboard playing. "Tighter Whined" has expressive drumming and bass playing in a very forceful manner with piano chords adding to the urgency of the piece. The sound builds from darkness into differing shades, flashing fast and exciting like an experimental black and white film. Gliding gracefully at midtempo, "Spooty And Snofer" works interesting tones with bass and piano notes falling like droplets from the sky, and an industrial, motorik beat underneath. This has the feel of a Bad Plus performance from when Ethan Iverson was in the band, eventually moving to a fine bass feature leading to a graceful conclusion. "Next Razor World" guides a crisp slapping beat against playing from inside the piano. Large bass notes frame this unusual and strange sound, very free and experimental, with strumming inside the piano building an almost West African sound then moving back to the traditional keyboard. Space, bass and inside playing are hallmarks of "Dancy Clear Ends" which suddenly flashes into light with a fast paced trio improvisation, where short cymbal crashes accent the fluid piano playing and bass pulses. The music becomes freer but still hurtles ahead leading to another excellent bass solo, and finale. "This One And This Too" uses slow motion sounds, picking and playing the piano dexterously, giving the music a much wider sonic palette, then darting around excitedly over a backdrop of solid bass and encouraging drums. There is a wildly exciting group improvisation takes them into the outer limits and back just as quickly, bringing them to the end of an album that was both engagingly accessible and courageous in its atmospheric experimentation. Reckon -

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