Dimitri Vassilakis: Parallel Lines

Tenor and soprano saxophonist Vassilakis leads a trio that includes bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts in a set of venturesome groove-based originals. For the most part, Vassilakis loops Essiet’s bass ostinatos, then overdubs Watts’ drums and his own saxes. As a result, the music, while melodically interesting, has an inorganic, hermetic quality. There’s little interaction. Indeed, it’s not entirely evident that the three were ever in the same room together.

Watts plays light-fingered grooves around Essiet’s repeated figures without ever engaging the bassist. Vassilakis overdubs two saxes, playing-down the heads and improvising counterpoint. He has nice chops, plenty of energy and a modestly original approach, yet the overdubbed saxophones add an unwelcome layer of artifice. I appreciate Vassilakis’ need to indulge his counterpoint jones, but the Dueling Dimitris thing is too incestuous for my taste. That’s a shame, because I’ve little doubt that if these three played live, it would burn. We get a hint of that on the final cut, “The Drum Think,” whereupon Vassilakis and Watts go one-on-one to some inspired ends. More of that would have been welcome. The rest is appealing on a certain level, but its canned nature works against it.