Toronto trio TuneTown’s second album begins with what sounds like a loose drag across a snare: saggy tire chains, let’s say, spinning but failing to catch, in a few inches of hardpack. Drummer Ernesto Cervini (a seemingly never-sleeping soul who doubles as a jazz publicist) bathes in this textural nowhere a few precious seconds, then nods to bassist Artie Roth and tenor saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, as the two, Jefferson especially, dart around a swing beat with odd accents, threatening to mutiny and bring in their own meters. Then, and only then, do they settle down to some honest swing. Plus plenty of space, natch.
The trio prides itself on “chordless” status—the lack of a voicing instrument, in other words—and while they don’t summon the Neptune-and-beyond skronkfests found in similar lineups, they push freedom in the other direction to establish a communal inner space, a singular atomic construction where any man might find himself the nucleus. Roth could drop out, say, after only one chorus or the semblance of a chorus, letting himself brew at that center while the other two simply breathe along. Because here, in inner space, the leaving-out stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the putting-in. Every positive space has its complementary negative. With this one-two stroke, the atom pulses in homebrew passion.