Listening to Gary Peacock makes one pine for a world where all jazz bassists are steeped in Eastern spirituality, have played with everyone from Albert Ayler to Bill Evans and live to be an agile 82.
Peacock will forever be known for the “Standards Trio,” in which he and drummer Jack DeJohnette shepherded Keith Jarrett into some of the pianist’s most lucid, complementary performances without sacrificing the depth of their own assertions. So no one should be surprised that the bassist now helms a trio of acutely kindred spirits in pianist Marc Copland and drummer Joey Baron. In the press materials for Tangents (a followup to the trio’s first recording, 2015’s Now This), Peacock marvels at their “lack of me, me, me. Everyone is listening for what the music tells you to do.”
That ambiance of received wisdom, of patient certainty, permeates Tangents. The opener, “Contact,” begins with the spare, sturdy frame of Peacock’s 45-second bass solo, followed by Copland’s tiptoe-sensitive notation and the gossamer texture of Baron’s cymbals. Halfway through the piece, the trio gradually picks up the pace, as if coming out of hibernation. “December Greenwings” reworks what was originally a 1978 Peacock-Jan Garbarek duet into a halting, staccato trio coordination. The lone group improvisation, “Empty Forest,” is a case study in the beauty of resonance, from Baron’s timpani-like mallet-beats to the evaporating notes Peacock plucks out of his bass.
The yin-oriented majesty of Bill Evans is an obvious inspiration for the trio, and they honor the pianist with a gently rustling version of “Blue in Green,” highlighted by yet another gorgeous linear solo from Peacock. Better yet is a heartbreakingly beautiful rendition of the Spartacus movie theme that may be more lyrical than Evans’ previously definitive treatment. Elsewhere on the disc are songs with more oomph, including an initially serene “Tempei Tempo” that ramps up to a driving beat, and the Ornette-friendly “Rumblin’.” But it is hard to top Peacock and his trio in repose, listening for the music’s next instruction.