Friday, February 17, 2012

Trio M - Jazz Bakery - DownBeat

Trio M - 2/4/11 - Musicians Institute

Trio M, a leaderless trio composed of pianist Myra Melford, upright bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson took to the stage amid the locker-lined halls of Hollywood, Calif.’s Musicians Institute on Feb. 4. The group converged to be part of the waning days of the once homeless Jazz Bakery’s Movable Feast.

The astounding news from earlier in the week was that the Jazz Bakery would not be movable for much longer. After numerous financial and political hurdles, it was announced that the club would be getting a permanent home in Culver City, Calif., designed by architect Frank Gehry (Walt Disney Concert Hall, Guggenheim Bilbao, Experience Music Project). Gehry, who lives and works close to the planned location, even offered his services pro-bono, transforming the future of the planned Jazz Bakery project from bleak to an architectural tourist attraction in less than a week.

When the trio first started, things were looking decidedly out. Wilson splattered across the kit, his wrists draped with rattling shells. Dresser leapt across the neck of his bass while Melford jabbed at the piano. After nearly 10 minutes, the bespectacled trio eventually converged into a cohesive sound before drawing to a close. Only then did the band reveal that the number had been “Al,” Wilson’s homage to saxophonist Albert Ayler.

From there, the band settled into the pocket with “The Guest House,” which featured a quasi-second line drum part from Wilson. Dresser’s upright bass funneled through an effects pedal. Wah-ing rapidly with his foot, Dresser drew strange sounds from his acoustic instrument, working the neck with both hands to create a sound not unlike a landing plane. Throughout the set, Dresser pumped his pedal like a sewing machine, mimicking the sounds of virtually every string instrument imaginable.

A Dresser original, “Ekoneni,” opened with bass alone, this time sounding like a West African kora. Eventually Melford contributed one of many precise piano solos over Wilson’s thundering drums. Wilson’s turn in the spotlight involved a muffled gong that was at first played face-down with his hands before being picked up and struck repeatedly, converting the punchline percussion instrument into a vital member of his kit.

Melford’s “The Kitchen” featured the pianist’s unhinged ferocity. She hammered the piano from elbow to fingertips while Wilson gave his kit a good drubbing as well, applying woodpecker trills to the sides of his snare.

The band dropped the pulse with Melford’s “Even Birds Have Hopes To Return To.” Wilson got into the harmonic game, gently striking five tuned bells suspended from his forearm while Dresser contributed a gentle bowed bass solo that held the audience suitably rapt.

“Tele Mojo,” a Dresser-penned workout, had everyone drawing new sounds from their instrument. Melford rigged the strings of the piano to emulate a gamelan-like xylophone while Wilson strummed the snares on the bottom of his snare drum like a guitar. The peaceful beginning was slowly replaced by another full-bodied piano solo as Wilson dropped his percussion instruments to the floor with a clang.

The band closed with Melford’s “The Promised Land.” After a brief and funky intro from Dresser, Wilson jumped in with a pounding backbeat. Melford added the stop-start melody and the band made the most of their shifting dynamics. After the piano was sufficiently pummeled, the band stopped on a dime leaving Wilson’s elated laugh to close the solid set.

Trio M @ DownBeat

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