Friday, May 16, 2014

Richard Tabnik Trio, Symphony for Jazz Trio, A Prayer for Peace

Not everyone on the contemporary jazz scene falls neatly into tradition versus avant, trad versus free, pulse versus freetime, etc. In fact most of the players if not all out there in the "new" category have a strong sense of history and open themselves to it to varying degrees depending on the project and playing association at hand at any given time.

This strikes me as especially true of alto master Richard Tabnik, his trio and their Symphony for Jazz Trio, A Prayer for Peace (New Artists 1053 2-CDs). Those who have followed pianist Connie Crothers and her recordings and appearances over the years will recognize Richard as a long-time member of Connie's regular ensemble.

What is particularly satisfying about Maestro Tabnik's playing is the way he re-channels a Tristano influence into a personal contemporary sound and point of view. He does not sound so much like the original Tristano sax acolytes Konitz and Marsh as much as he takes the impetus of Lennie's asymmetrical across-the-bar phrasings and opens them up to a free zone, which may have implied changes underneath, but fly far afield chromatically and expressively to something most definitely post-new-thing. He has that cry and he can generate good improv ideas for sustained excitement over long periods.

And that at least in part is what he is doing on A Prayer for Peace. They begin with some shorter pieces. Then the latter half of the set is the "symphony" proper--in the sense that the entire performances has a unity that in part is kept together by thematic development. That you will recognize with repeated listens. And in between start and finish we are treated to some very vibrant and together jazz from a trio that is well-matched and continually generative improvisationally. The live setting for this session only adds to the sense of spontaneity-within-form.

Adam Lane comes through on bass throughout with beautiful walking and commentary from his corner of the rhythm section as well as extended solo spots that bring home his centrality among the new scene bass players today. Drummer Roger Mancuso is a fellow Crothers group member who has played with Tabnik for a long time and gives out with the very swinging and varied support needed.

And then of course this is Richard's chance to really stretch out and he takes full advantage with some hot-plate scorching and a freely ranging imagination. Sometimes all this takes place on top of implied changes, such as "I'll Remember April" changes at the start. Other times there is a looser harmonic framework. And always there is a very fully open harmonic-melodic sensibility that you listen to with open ears to fully understand.

One thing to consider. This is a great deal of music. You may want to take on one CD at a sitting on first hear. But the rewards are directly proportionate to the time and space the band and you, the listener, devote to making this music sound. It is well worth the effort.

Tabnik shows us why he remains a crucial force in jazz today--and he does it wholly on his own terms. Kudos!

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