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Trio X - Roulette at Location One

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Artist: Trio X

Album: Roulette at Location One

Label: Cadence Jazz

Review date: Oct. 25, 2006

In recent years, Trio X has taken to touring more frequently, much to the pleasure of provincial audiences outside their usual Eastern seaboard stomping grounds. October found them logging miles on seven-date circuit that included several stops in the Midwest. A Cadence sound crew was on hand to chronicle the sounds. Like so many of their peers, the music of Trio X is best experienced in person, but for those who missed the latest campaign, this concert - captured the previous March in NYC - is a decent consolation.

Originally born out of larger ad hoc gathering of multinational improvisers that recorded for CIMP in 1998, the trio of saxophonist Joe McPhee, bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen has since solidified into one of the finest working free jazz bands. Past releases had them drawing on sources of inspiration as varied as the Sugar Hill section of Harlem and the anatomical properties of a watermelon. Roulette at Location is more akin to their previous live offerings on Cadence Jazz and documents another customarily tradition-conscious concert date.

Duval garners pole position on the tray card and it’s his instrument that frequently sparks the action on the set’s five pieces. The evergreen ballad “My Funny Valentine,” a band favorite, forms the basis for the opener “Funny Valentines of War,” where McPhee’s delicate soprano contrasts with the punishing snap of Duval’s amplified strings. The track’s second half turns hectic, a possible aural reflection of the calamitous titular condition, before settling into a strong freebop groove in its final minutes. “Improvs and Melodies of Themes” touches on series of familiar melodic kernels, including Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” and Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman.” “David Danced: variations on Ellington” digs deep into a lesser known Ducal theme, while the tail end of the lovely “Sunflower Musings” works in two from Monk, “Monk’s Dream” and “Bemsha Swing.”

McPhee sticks mainly to soprano throughout, playing his pocket trumpet only on a pair of brief passages. Duval and Rosen, veterans of countless Cadence-financed dates together, gel as usual, shifting from loose to tight, free to structured, with rapport that borders on the extrasensory. The set winds down with a rendering of another band staple “Going Home,” McPhee slipping into his sanctified mode and delivering a soulful, spiritualized meditation on the straight horn. Those familiar with Trio X’s steadily growing back catalog probably won’t discover any major surprises here, but the music is still intensely enjoyable on its own terms. The artfully blurred cover pic, depicting the three posed in defiant arms-folded stances, looks more like a rock band press shot. It’s no accident, as their power trio credentials are firmly in place and they can hit hard when the situation dictates. But this set also includes plenty of contemplative collective improvisation to complement the expected energy music fireworks.

By Derek Taylor

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