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April 2003

Trio X
In Black and White: On Tour, Ann Arbor/NYC

What good is freedom that frowns upon the blues and standard tunes? Especially if it inhibits the creativity of someone who has broken new ground decade after decade since the '60s like Joe McPhee? Luckily, the puritans of improvised music do not deter the multi-instrumentalist. On Trio X's In Black and White (Cadence Jazz), McPhee, bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen do not simply interpret chestnuts like "God Bless the Child" and "'Round Midnight" but instead rigorously test them. Their full expressive force is brought to bear on these materials, and the results are bracing and stand in stark contrast to the pat treatments these compositions receive as a rule. The same can be said of their forays into uncharted territory, in which their intensity does not impede the nuanced articulation of ideas. Trio X reinforces the steadily weakening connection between jazz and improvised music, argued in some quarters to be an unavoidable, liberating historical force, but one that may well diminish all parties in the long haul.

Originally published in April 2003
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