Accomplished jazz trios are often praised for playing as if they were one person. Bassist Arild Andersen's new trio album, The Triangle, suggests that trios can make interesting music in another way: play as three people alert to each other's diverse styles and keep the trialogue going.
The trio's pianist, Vassilis Tsabropoulos, studied classical piano for much of his life, and his golden tone and gentle attack are more typical of someone reared on Chopin and Rachmaninov than Powell and Peterson. With his talent for making a melody sing, Tsabropoulos often plays (relatively) straight man to the harder-swinging Andersen. The bassist and leader shoulders a lot of the melodic burden here, and his fat tone stands out in the generally hushed atmosphere whenever he takes a solo. On Tsabropoulos-penned tracks like "Choral" and "Cinderella Song," Andersen pulls at and flips around Tsabropoulos' sunny, contemplative themes in unexpected ways; his solo over the pianist's first full statement of the theme of Maurice Ravel's "Pavane Pour un Infante Defunte" (arranged for the trio by Tsabropoulos) makes for marvelous counterpoint of a kind Ravel would never have written but might well have enjoyed. Meanwhile, Andersen's more rhythmically forceful compositions, like "Saturday" and "Lines," inspire Tsabropoulos to deliver his own surprising rhythmic accents and melodic shifts.
"European Triangle," which drummer John Marshall composed with his trio mates, opens with a grim ostinato in the piano; the ensuing march into chaos and back again allows Marshall to showcase his technique. Elsewhere, Marshall works subtly, providing shifting accents behind Tsabropoulos' otherwise straightforward melodies or further encouragement to Andersen's explorations. Over the course of The Triangle, the trio proves that the connections between three points can cover a lot of fertile ground.