This trio set by saxophonist Jeremy Udden might seem, on paper, to have been thrown together with little forethought. In his liner notes, Udden states that although he and acoustic bassist Nicolas Moreaux had collaborated frequently, drummer John Betsch was new to him, having played with Udden only once before. The track list also appears somewhat random, featuring no fewer than four pieces written by saxophonist/composer Steve Lacy, one each by Ellington, classical composer Jerome Moross, and Don Cherry (the latter a tribute to the Jamaican saxist and ska pioneer Roland Alphonso), and two-and-one-third by Udden himself, including the freely improvised finale, “One for Us.”
All that considered, Three in Paris, recorded over what Udden describes as “two sleep-deprived afternoons” in Paris, coheres remarkably well, the fragments adding up to an impressive whole. “Roland Alphonso,” which starts things off, bears little resemblance to the dance-happy island music its subject made with the Skatalites; instead, it’s cerebral, airy and lax, giving the three musicians all the space they need without feeling rushed. Of the Lacy tunes, three of them programmed consecutively, “Bone,” the last, is the liveliest, providing some of the more spirited moments on an album that tends to unfold at a leisurely pace. Ellington’s “Azure,” too, bears a springiness that allows the three players—with Udden on soprano (which he alternates with alto throughout the album)—to toy with one another more than on most tracks. Three in Paris may have been a somewhat fortuitous meeting, but it all worked out in the end.
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