Friday, November 11, 2011

Triptet, "Imaginary Perspective": A Visionary Trio Performs Nine Conceptually Advanced Free Improvisations

Triptet does something rather rigorously avant on Imaginary Perspective (Engine 040). Each of the members (Michael Monhart, sax, percussion, Tibetan horn; Greg Campbell, drums, percussion, French horn, Tibetan horn; Tom Baker, fretless guitar, electronics) for any particular piece chooses a particular playing parameter and sticks with it, so that each piece has a kind of three-fold structure of togetherness-in-separation. If that sounds opaque, an example I hope will clarify. For the opener, "Autumn Sonar," Monhart plays long-toned multiphonics centered around a particular pitch, Tom Baker plays long tones in the lower register, and Greg Campbell plays a rapid series of drum-percussion patterns that contrast against the long-toned mode.

There are variations and there is movement, there are some numbers that have a more open free-form feel like more conventional free jazz, but for the most part this is a group that thrives on a sort of "triptet" of tri-patterned sound making. It's as if each player is an independently functioning body part that coordinates with the other two in ways that lead to a result that is more than the sum of its parts. This is not freebop. It's abstract sound weaving of a provocative sort.

In that way the music is a bit akin to the classic formalist sublimities of AMM and MEV. There aren't many ensembles out there today pursuing the extension of what those pioneering groups conceptualized. Triptet is one. The music is a good example of why it all still rings true, of why there remains much more to be expressed along these lines. Triptet have found their own way to go about it.

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