The Other Three
With The Other Three, free percussionist Brad Dutz reaches for a gauntlet Shelly Manne threw down on 1954’s The Three: It’s a trio album with one horn player (John Fumo on trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn), one reedist (Kim Richmond on alto sax and clarinet) and Dutz’s drums—no bass. This creates space beyond most free jazz for their formidable melodic ideas, but also leaves the music sounding two-dimensional.
Actually, it’s the melodies’ high quality that drives home the bass’ absence. Pieces like “Vermin in the Basement” and “Flipping Out” have intertwining sax-and-trumpet lines, shifting between counterpoint and two-part harmony, that beg for someone to put chord changes, however spontaneous, underneath them. At times, Dutz is able to establish a harmonic foundation, playing tuned gongs on “Slender Lois of Sri Lanka” and what sounds like kettle drums on “Machine Five.” He even manages to imply a drone with toms on “Mandrakes & Narwals.” Yet there’s still a thinness in the arrangements that a steady upright could thicken and shape with more versatile, unpredictable changes than Dutz’s echo-y percussion offers.
Make no mistake, though: The disc is brimful of excellent material. With Dutz as the entire rhythm section, he takes on amplified importance so that his kicks (“Translucent Moon Jellies”) become melodic accents as well as rhythmic ones. There’s even one piece, the stately “Funeral March,” that’s an unqualified success as is. Without bass, however, most of the music lacks perspective, with a result that’s oddly unsettling—like an object that casts no shadow.