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Andrew Cyrille/Mark Dresser/Marty Ehrlich: C/D/E

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Saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Andrew Cyrille first joined forces for a New York festival date in 1996. They’d intended to perform with Bobby Bradford, but when it proved impossible to fly the trumpeter in from Los Angeles, they performed as a trio. People who were there talked about the set for days-it was reputedly one of those “you had to be there” shows. The three clearly agreed, since they’ve continued to work together ever since.

Cyrille, Dresser and Ehrlich recorded C/D/E over two years ago for the Austrian label P.A.O.-nearly impossible to find here in the States. Newly issued domestically on Jazz Magnet, the album proves worth the long wait. C/D/E is an altogether exceptional document of an incredibly simpatico trio. Each member is a bandleader in his own right, but here no one hogs the spotlight. Instead, the voices are balanced in perfectly supportive harmony. Ehrlich’s peerless versatility on alto sax, clarinet and flute is well matched by Dresser’s effortless virtuosity and Cyrille’s panoramic range of rhythms.

Cyrille’s “A Simple Melody” pairs Dresser’s fluent arco and Erhlich’s bluesy alto, while in the drummer’s “Aubade,” the trio plays the delicate melody in tandem. After a frenetic head, Ehrlich’s title track atomizes the band into its constituent parts for an exhilarating round of solos. The group salutes Bradford and his late partner John Carter with Dresser’s “BBJC,” and pays homage to Thomas Chapin with a poignant reading of his “Aeolus,” a feature for Ehrlich’s flute. Throughout, there’s no excess, no padding and no pandering-just three musicians from different generations and disparate backgrounds uniting to form a cohesive whole.