Jack DeJohnette, John Patitucci and Danilo Perez have shared each other’s orbits for nearly two decades. So it may come as a surprise to realize that the three have not recorded together as a trio until now. They sound like a working unit of long standing in Music We Are, which is a marvelously engaging exercise in individual space, tightly woven interplay and group discovery.
Mixing tricky original compositions and group improvisations, the album reflects the cozy, snowbound Catskills studio where it was recorded. Several of the tracks slide into a wintry melancholy, and even the electric uptempo numbers have a certain bittersweet tang from time to time. But what stands out most clearly here is the balance between expansiveness and intimacy. In the rhythmically dense first half of “Seventh D,” for example, DeJohnette’s drumming seems to pull in three directions at once while Perez romps and dodges on piano. But in the second part of the piece it can be difficult to tell where one instrument ends and the next begins, as the trio deftly maneuvers through a series of odd fits and starts.
There is a lot of editing and overdubbing at play, with each musician doubling instruments. Patitucci makes effective work of acoustic and 5-string electric basses, often setting up a solid foundation with the former and dancing over it with the latter. Perez creates interesting points of friction between piano and keyboard, and DeJohnette breaks out a melodica for two tracks, adding a folksy touch. The overall sense is one of eclecticism and sharp attunement as the trio flies or stomps through kinetically charged riffs, then pulls back for stretches of solemn contemplation.
An accompanying DVD captures the spontaneity and joy of the trio’s collectivist creative process, such as a remarkable moment when the group feels out a rhythmically intricate chart with an impromptu a cappella vocal jam. These are three men who clearly enjoy a little give and take, and the results are an album that only improves with repeat listening.
Forrest Dylan Bryant
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