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Murray, Allen & Carrington Power Trio: Perfection

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As great as saxophonist David Murray, pianist Geri Allen and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington are separately, it’s truly difficult to remember the last time any of them sounded as good as they all do together on Perfection. The members of the jazz “power trio” share a chemistry that gives their music remarkable strength.

That chemistry comes without any musician compromising or overtly accommodating the others. Murray’s coarseness of tone and lyricism-to-paroxysm developments remain intact, but nonetheless fuse with Allen’s warm surrealist fancies and Carrington’s restless reimagining of the beat. (Carrington often stands in for the bass, via subtle kick-drum; thus on “The Nurturer,” she singlehandedly brings the funk.) They use those signature techniques to brilliantly follow and respond to each other on “Barbara Allen” and “The David, Geri & Terri Show,” and to oppose each other with equal brilliance on “Samsara (For Wayne).” Only on Ornette Coleman’s “Perfection” do their styles reconfigure-so as to improvise in Coleman’s freeform image, with trombonist Craig Harris, bassist Charnett Moffett and trumpeter Wallace Roney along for the ride.

Their chemistry also produces a sense of humor that’s rarely seen in their solo projects, ranging from mere playfulness to dark comedy. How else but the latter to describe the off-kilter lurch of “Cycles and Seasons”? Carrington’s 7/4 rhythm makes it lopsided to begin with; Allen and Murray add their own angular parts (subsumed, momentarily, by 4/4 bridges that vanish as quickly as they arrive) that then dissolve into gleefully improvised dementia. The playfulness, whether by accident or design, comes primarily through in the two tunes on which Murray wields bass clarinet-“D Special (Interlude),” with its lively bounce, and “For Fr. Peter O’Brien,” a soft-shoe for Mary Lou Williams’ onetime spiritual/musical counsel. It’s a welcome byproduct of an already impressive chemical reaction.

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