Monday, May 20, 2013

Triptet, Figure in the Carpet

Are there too many jazz/avant releases coming out these days? I recently read an interview with a prominent artist who expressed this thought. We sometimes forget how many releases proffered as jazz came out during the late-'50s-early '60s. Only a portion were truly worth your time, and there were many thousands that usually erred on the side of mood pablum. And some of the rote blowing sessions didn't always stand the test of time.

As someone who tries to keep up with the slog of output that hits our senses yearly, I will admit that there is much at times that seems premature and unnecessary today, partially because recording and releasing a CD is relatively easy and inexpensive. But there is some great music too that we might not have had a chance to hear in years past. It is an enormously time-consuming job to sift through what can be had--I know and I only get exposed to a part of it, so it's easy to overlook something.

Such a something might well be the latest album by Triptet, A Figure in the Carpet (Engine 2012). Hailing Sun Ra as primary influence, the trio winds their way through a live electro-acoustic set that has an acid-etched series of sound design episodes to give you pause and get your attention.

Who are these guys? Michael Monhart plays saxophones, splitting his signal so that the input goes into a laptop for further electronic manipulations. Greg Campbell plies a "junkstra" combination of set drums and percussive extensions, plays a beat up French horn and subjects things to laptop electronics as well. Tom Baker plays an acrid and wide-timbred fretless guitar, a theremin and too gets involved in electronic manipulations.

Can these guys play "Giant Steps" or "Cherokee?" I don't know about that. They don't try and it isn't a concern. Their version of tradition goes back to Ra in an out plugged-in and acoustic mode, and live electronic, live outside pioneers like AMM, MEV, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, to my ears, groups and artists that sought to create sound worlds where often there were no virtuoso soloists carrying the music further, but instead sought to create stimulating envelopes of improvised, experimental sound worlds, seeking an overall cohesion more than a Promethean individuality. I may overly simplify, but that's in essence what at least part of it was about.

So too Triptet. They create a widely travelling set of ten episodes that hang together as a legitimate, successful, poetic traversal of some of the possibilities available to them. This one gets fairly orchestral in its denseness and has the drama of dynamics and a kind of sustained-versus-punctuated dialog of contrasts.

If their next album was a great songbook-bebop revival I'd be surprised. But they do what they do with results that consistently interest, surprise and extend the listener's home turf, ultimately shooting him off to distant realms, trips of fancy and imagination.

If you are into the electro-acoustic realm of spontaneous outness, you will gravitate toward this, I think. Definitely recommended for those pioneering ear-souls!

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