In Parrhesia, trumpeter Stephen Haynes, bassist and guitarist Joe Morris, and percussionist Warren Smith bring to light that the interaction and exchange of the phrasing from instruments of purposely varied timbres makes all the difference in how musical conversation unravels. That the title of the album originates from a Greek word meaning to speak freely or boldly predisposes that the music will be nothing less than genuine. In no way is there ever a problem understanding the repartée. The changing tonalities address fluctuations in moods rather than in personality. The personalities behind the instruments never waver.
Even though the album begins with a percussion riff and a rounded low-toned bass ostinato, from the outset, Haynes performs closely to the total sound but always has the edge as chief orator. He flavors the music with how he configures his embouchure with the cornet, trumpet and flugelhorn; he also talks through his mutes. How Haynes speaks with the horns, in burbles, spurts, sputters or direct, lengthy, resonant pure tones, triggers whether or not Morris switches to guitar or Smith moves to marimba, the gongs or tympani. The choice of instrumentation allows for an uncommon blend of sonic voices.
Morris and Smith utilize repeating phrases as a cyclorama for Haynes’ horn performance. This repetition transforms the act of keeping time into creating recognizable patterns, which imply rhythmic content similar to traditional walking bass lines or boom-chick-a-booms. The powerful interconnectedness between Morris’ fingering the guitar and bass and Smith’s lithe mallet work on marimba, wooden chimes, bells or cymbals, along with the emphasis of occasional resounding strokes on the tympani, puts the idea of rhythm section in another category. As Smith addresses the drumset like he would a percussion set-up, the last “Unfolding” tenderly packs away Parrhesia as a collection of thoroughly intriguing pieces.