Review by Brad Walseth
What happens when you put three of the current jazz world's most accomplished improvisers together in a recording studio, with each member bringing compositions into the arena with the intent of exploring and interacting together? The results, when it works, can be highly satisfying, as in the case of Trio M's Big Picture.
Trio M, currently touring the East Coast, consists of pianist Myra Melford - widely considered as one of the best piano improvisers in jazz today, intense bass innovator Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson, who is one of the brightest young lights on the drum kit. All three are among the hardest working musicians out there, with Melford releasing two other well-received albums in 2007 (Heart Mountain, Spark); Wilson seemingly appearing on nearly every release that came out of NYC, as well as leading his own band "Arts and Crafts;" and Dresser playing improvised concerts in a wide variety of settings. It should come as no surprise then that music concocted by such creative and experienced improvisational musicians should be so highly rewarding.
Melford is simply an ascendant star on the piano. Her lines are amazingly deep and fresh and move in natural waves that come from deep within, while connecting coherently with her surroundings. Wilson shows why he is among the most lyrical drummers since Paul Motian, playing contrapuntal fills with a sensitive touch that should be bottled and sold to most would-be percussionists. Dresser's range of tones, from delightful bowing and harmonic chimes to violent near-abuse of his bass, are startlingly clever and take on new sonic dimensions beyond that of time-keeper/chord-framer.
Part of the fun is recognizing fractured snippets of blues, classical, pop, jazz and free jazz atmospherics filtered through such original musical personalities and forming a new and fascinating whole that is sometimes fierce, sometimes gentle. A cavalcade of non-stop surprises that will have the listener making new discoveries on each spin, Big Picture is an enriching production and a true musical experience to listen to while imagining a big picture of these three artists playing/creating together and, no doubt, smiling.