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Trio 3: Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille : Live at the Sunset

There’s an acerbic edge to both Oliver Lake’s alto sax tone and the melodic themes of many of these compositions that might, in others’ hands, seem ill humored. But percussionist Andrew Cyrille’s relentless yet unobtrusive propulsiveness and bassist Reggie Workman’s sinuous bass stylings provide a supple and optimistic context for Lake’s leads, and the altoist himself betrays a playful, even whimsical spirit in the way he fractures and then reconstructs harmonic, tonal and rhythmic continuities. The obvious frame of reference is Eric Dolphy (whose “Gazzelloni” opens the set); even at his most focused and intense, Lake imbues his lines with a trickster’s antic eloquence.

Not that everything here is an exercise in sweet delight: There’s a dark undercurrent to Curtis Clark’s “Amreen” that’s chillingly accentuated by Workman’s deep rumblings and Lake’s dancing-on-knife-edges meditations; Cyrille’s “Striation” juxtaposes rhythmic and melodic shards with mad-scientist precision, and all three musicians explore the daunting nooks and crannies between those shards with steadfast fearlessness; Leroy Jenkins’ “Come On Home, Baby” is not a bluesy lament but a wracked testimonial to what sounds like psychic dissolution, and again the trio rises to the occasion with their take-no-prisoners emotional and musical explorations.

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