Murray Allen Carrington Power Trio - Perfection
(Motėma / Membran. 234221. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)
It might normally seem presumptuous to call an album Perfection, but when the musicians naming it are of the calibre of David Murray (reeds), Geri Allen (piano) and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), perhaps a little presumption might be acceptable.
The title track is a previously unrecorded Ornette Coleman tune, which trumpeter Bobby Bradford transcribed and passed to Murray in the 1970s. Recorded just a week after Coleman's death, the trio recorded it as their tribute to the saxophonist. On it, they are joined by Charnett Moffett on bass, Craig Harris on trombone, and trumpeter Wallace Roney, Jr, each of whom had played with Coleman. The result is inventive and radical, a gripping piece of music that serves to reinforce Coleman's impact on modern music.
One might expect the other tracks on the album to sound sparse in comparison, particularly without a bass, but Murray, Allen and Carrington fill the space with exciting music. Even when one member of the trio drops out, the remaining duos could fill any size of emptiness. Geri-Rigged features a blistering, exciting duet between Murray and Carrington, and then between Allen and Carrington. The David, Geri & Terri Show features soaring free improvisation from all three players.
There are periods of quiet reflection, as on Barbara Allen, one of the slower pieces, which has a moody, spiritual intensity; Murray's solos showing he is still in his prime. Geri Allen came across this traditional tune when working with Charlie Haden. She has dedicated the track to her mother, whose name was Barbara. Whilst several tracks on Perfection are in remembrance of recently lost artists, Samsara (For Wayne) is in honour of a hugely influential living musician, Wayne Shorter, with whom Carrington has played extensively. It is an open, impressionistic piece, the trio proving that power needn't be exercised to be present: holding back can make a powerful statement.
Elsewhere, they manage to work up a funky groove, as on For Fr. Peter O'Brien, named for Mary Lou Williams' mentor. Murray takes a soulful solo on bass clarinet, and then drops out, leaving Allen to display her seemingly effortless piano work, back only by Carrington's subtle brush strokes. Murray also plays bass clarinet on D Special (Interlude) which has a similarly funky feel, a strutting number that can't help but get one moving.
This is a varied album, covering a variety of styles – spiritual, blues, post bop, and free improvisation. It clearly pays homage to friends and mentors, and contains happiness and grief. But it has a consistent tone, centred on the excellence of the trio. Perfection might not be perfect, but it is hard to fault.
Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.