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Johnathan Blake: Trion (Giant Step Arts)

A review of the drummer's two-disc set featuring Chris Potter and Linda May Han Oh

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Trion by Johnathan Blake
The cover of Trion by Johnathan Blake

Trion is frequently torrential, and aggressively virtuosic. A significant chunk of this magnanimous offering—nearly two hours of music, recorded live at the Jazz Gallery in New York, spread over 13 songs on two discs—is taken up with solo spots for Blake on drums, Linda May Han Oh on bass, and Chris Potter on tenor saxophone. The project is the second release from Giant Step Arts, the nonprofit founded by photographers Jimmy and Dena Katz, who choose artists for whom they wish to stage and record premiere performances, then provide them with CDs and digital downloads of the gigs and ownership of the masters.

Those extraordinarily generous terms enabled Blake to create an intensely personal recording. “High School Daze” and “West Berkeley St.,” for example, are direct homages to his Philadelphia upbringing. Yet Oh and Potter are more than sidepeople. Oh’s “Trope” is the most circumspect, ensemble-oriented original here. And Potter’s clarion horn relentlessly scours the scale for buoyant asides. His 17-minute arrangement of the Police’s “Synchronicity I” and his 11-and-a-half-minute original “Good Hope” emblazon a Trion template of raucous but rigorous jazz thrash that fans of woolly David Ware and David Murray sax carousing will appreciate.

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