The Art Ensemble of Chicago's Joseph Jarman was much missed when he retired from the Jazz world to be ordained as a Buddhist monk, but this threesome is another step into his re-entry, and with his equals in this project, Robbie Lynn Hunsinger and Tatsu Aoki, they have brought an air to this musical endeavor not unlike that one often hears from Jarman's fellow Art Ensemble alumnus Roscoe Mitchell. An avant-classical air infuses Trio, largely consisting of a careful use of silence ("LD50"), circular breathing-based patterns and a very preconceived deliberate air. If this is completely improvisation (and it might be, I've been wrong before) I'll go apply to monk school as well. An Eastern patina also infuses much of the music, especially Aoki's sitar-like bowing and Hunsinger's (who I regret I've not heard before) shenai- like oboe over Jarman's temple-bell-like cymbals, the austere atmosphere failing to prevent her from borrowing a phrase from Kurt Weill's "September Song" in the opening meditation of "Hornswoggled." Sly and beautiful. "Larsen B" has Hunsinger's burbling, modulating clarinet accompany Jarman on thumb piano, a near echo of Ensemble outrages past. Yet the music is compressed, somehow; there is a conscious self-editing at work, a will to make less do more. Not necessarily something the Art Ensemble was known for! So when Jarman expertly manipulates the finger cymbals during "Cape of Needles," the hackles raise invitingly but Aoki holds to the implied heartbeat and a multi-tracked Jarman and Hunsinger pulse and twirl. Some will think "snake charmers" at a point here, but sorry, folks, that's just cultural imperialism.
Sonny Rollins did us all a favor (another favor, I mean) by showing up at the Village Vanguard all those decades ago with a bassist and drummer but no pianist. That's because they didn't need one! Aoki, Hunsinger and Jarman continue that thread in their own way, and Trio is a welcome addition to the Jazz catalog because the group freely utilize any number of improvisational and traditional methods to create a subtle, elastic web of contemplations. Folks, letís do this again soon.
by Ken Egbert
Jazz Now Interactive
Copyright Jazz Now, May 2003 issue, all rights reserved