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04/13/12

Trio M
The Guest House
Enja Yellowbird

The cooperative trio of pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson has become an extremely empathetic union, in which all three musicians mold their approaches to fit each of the tunes. While some of the tracks feel a little too subdued, with the performances overshadowing the structure of the composition, The Guest House comes off ultimately as a fairly strong statement.

Dresser, whose other work often swings further to the left of music like this, adds some of the most impressive elements. In Melford’s title track, he accents a solo by aggressively thumping double stops. In the coda, his bowing makes a dramatic, impellent whining sound; in fact, any time he uses the bow it propels the music, from the theme of “Even Birds Have Homes (To Return To)” to the intro of his “Tele Mojo,” a 12-minute expanse.

Among Wilson’s compositions, he pays homage to remote role models “Don Knotts” and “Al,” the latter an endearment for Albert Ayler, whose “Love Cry” theme serves as a jumping-off point. The subject matter is no joke and Wilson’s playing comes with its usual enthusiasm that keeps things at a high level.

Melford’s compositions sound a little more straightforward than her knotty work with her own band. The title track could break into a frenzied “Caravan” at any moment and “The Promised Land” has some great, tense funk. Nevertheless, she also runs free across the keys while one of her partners keeps things grounded. These moments prove that there’s a strong chemistry between these three, something not always apparent in a group of heavy hitters.

Originally published in April 2012
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