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John Tchicai/Pierre Dorge/Lou Grassi: Hope is Bright Green Up North

Reedist John Tchicai and fellow Dane and guitarist Pierre Dorge have a history that stretches all the way back to Dorge’s sideman gigs in Tchicai’s late ’60s bands. The two of them get together with drummer Lou Grassi for the CIMP release Hope Is Bright Green Up North.

The group dedicated the first tune of the recording, “Farewell Wilber,” to recently deceased bass player Wilber Morris. Awkwardly, it’s also a constant reminder to listeners of how useful a bass player would have been on this date. The trio plays frequently in only the sparest of outlines. Dorge rarely provides any harmonic framework, and when he does it’s skeletal. Far more often, as on “Ballad of 9/11,” he’s playing countermelody to Tchicai’s saxophone. Calculated or otherwise, there are a lot of holes here. It’s almost as if the group prepared as a quartet and obstinately refused to adapt when no bass player arrived. The two old colleagues leave quite a bit of responsibility to Grassi to keep the music from breaking apart. As it happens, Grassi plays with tremendous sensitivity and very nearly keeps things going on his own at times. It doesn’t help pull together this patchy date, however.

Originally Published