Wednesday, November 1, 2017

SWEDEN ; TRESPASS TRIO-The Spirit of Pitesti (Clean Feed 2017)

Per Zanussi double bass | Raymond Strid drums and percussion | Martin Küchen baritone, alto and sopranino saxophones

After “…was there to illuminate the night sky…”, “Bruder Beda” and “Human Encore”, this one with Joe McPhee as special guest, Trespass Trio is back to tell us another story without words. There’s a narrative structure developing from start to finish, with a cinematic quality, but everything goes through an emotional level (from rage to a disarming tenderness) and the clear invitation to imagine scenarios, characters and dialogues. Again, that story has political connotations. Pitesti is a Romanian city which got notorious because the local prison was home of brainwashing experiments during the totalitarian regime. In that process of “reeducation” of the prisoners, violence between the inmates was encouraged by the secret police. The procedures got so out of hand that the communist authorities stopped everything five years later. The prison staff was pardoned (of course!), but some inmate collaborationists were condemned to death. Combining composition and improvisation, rigor and passion, minor tones and grand gestures, the music touches us deeply. Trespass Trio became one of the most defying units of the contemporary European jazz and each new opus is a masterpiece. “The Spirit of Pitesti” is no exception. Not to be missed

Clean Feed

Dusted Magazine | Trespass Trio – The Spirit of Pitesti
By Madalena.    Published on May 29, 2017. 0

By Derek Taylor

Political awareness and attendant action have always been principal parts of the Trespass Trio’s purview. The Swedish-Norwegian ensemble’s music evinces direct antecedents in the Fire Music of 1960s as filtered through the European experience. They’re also passionate storytellers, picking topical sources of inspiration that reflect both struggle and emancipation. The Spirit of Pitesti takes a specific slice of sad history from the titular Romanian town to paint a sound picture of ideologically-driven repression and its consequences on a very human populace. Post-WII, a prison there was host to a series of penal experiments by the Communist government designed to engineer a psychological means of absolute obedience. The efforts of course failed, but the costs on the convicts were extreme.

The program is brief at barely 36-minutes, but potent in its consistent mood and mein. Two takes of “Sounds & Ruins” which sandwich the program unfold like a woebegone Mingus dirge with Per Zanussi’s bass strings strumming a somber ostinato and drummer Raymond Strid stamping a slanted martial cadence over which Martin Kuchen blows a dour and downcast baritone line. The title piece traces another melancholy motif for baritone and arco bass with Strid adding measured accents on cymbals struck and bowed. “In Tears” does little to leaven the prevailing air of despondency with more mournful baritone musings over brushed drums and a sedate, if steady, bass thrum. Zanussi’s anchoring solo brings an even weightier disposition to bear, his patterns bringing to the imagination the grim visages and crestfallen stares of inmates under the shadows of an iron cell grate.

Brisk and comparatively bright, “Fri Kokko” offers some respite from earlier penal doldrums. Kuchen blows loquaciously on aerated alto and scribbling sopranino separate and simultaneously, as Zanussi and Strid shape a scampering, skewed swing beat beneath him. The reprieve proves short-lived as “Centers” brings the listener back behind figurative bars with another disconsolate horn line threaded around another sorrowful bass drone. Strid’s contributions are once again textural, heightening the tension while avoiding anything resembling a conventional rhythmic count. Points are definitely scored for consistency of purpose, but album’s almost complete absence of levity and light while utterly intended is still a bit of an encumbrance to the experience as a whole.