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Dave Douglas/Tiny Bell Trio: Live in Europe

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Tiny Bell Trio is an apt name for this collective of trumpeter Dave Douglas, guitarist Brad Schoeppach, and drummer-percussionist Jim Black. Their forte is less the dynamics the name suggests but in how they render Douglas’ music to exploit its fragmentary and bare-boned essentials. Performances from their tour of Europe in October 1996 fill this CD. Broken percussion patterns and fancifully designed tapestries, the spatial and roller coaster scalular runs all vie for listener attention.

Innovative and experimental as the trio’s creations are dubbed, it bears an uncanny kinship to the expressionist theatre music of Weill’s Three Penny Opera. “Song For My Father-In-Law/Uncle Wiggly” would especially respond to this programmatic sensibility. Themes and music are subject to reversals as listeners would anticipate them according to titles. There is nothing sensuous, for example, about “Bardot,” if it is indeed named or inspired by the actress; yet the music suggests an ecoconsciousness (something which the actress has been promoting for longer than her film career). Melancholia distinguishes “The Cherry Tree Still Stands;” and for “Langsam” the trio offers an anthem-like solemnity. Does the listener detect a whole-tone mode in “Zeno?” And doesn’t the Hungarian-derived “Czardas” open with a fanfare associated with mariachi bands?

The Tiny Bell Trio works in the realm of how the subjective view can be surprised by what it casually apprehends. Douglas’ compositions are elastic enough for both the casual and the cerebral listener to subvert one another’s expectations.