Instabilitrio: Oh God, Don’t Let Me Die in a Place Like This

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Freedom, now – what does it really mean? Over a half century after the emergence of the jazz avant-garde, the notion still resounds with possibilities, inspiring new directions, combinations, associations. Like this one: a trio of two saxes and guitar/harmonica (unconventional even by the rather open-minded standards long since set by the A.A.C.M. among others) that re-imagines the interactive dynamics of an improvising chamber group. Swinging fluidly – and often, well, unstably – between the poles of three-way collective improvisation and duo blowing over/under/all around a one-man lead or rhythm line takes the emphasis off the individual soloist and places it emphatically on responsive group interplay. Undoubtedly, necessity is the mother of inventiveness here, but, decades after trailblazing loft-era precendents, one might well wonder why conventional rhythm sections still seem to represent such an enduring norm among free-jazz musicians. Clearly, leaving that path of least resistance means embracing the challenges that arise when you take away piano, bass, and drums, and find not absence, but presence, purpose. Assuming collective responsibility for temporal flow and harmonic texture demands that each musician remain continuously engaged in establishing, maintaining, and transforming the ever-shifting consensus.

Which, of course, brings us back to instability, the solution at hand: relatively few solos as such, but plenty of duo-solo combinations and permutations. Not only sounds of two saxophones almost merging at times into a single instrumental texture against contrasting guitar or harmonica, or overlapping textural layers of guitar and organ pedal providing a kaleidoscopic canvas for saxophone interplay, but also sax and guitar intertwining in polyphonic accompaniments that gestalt-shift into the foreground. And through it all a heightened sensitivity to the rhythmic emergent, each working toward maintaining a cohesive overall flow of time, while often remaining manifestly out-of-phase with the others. Free jazz informed then, to some extent, by the post-structural conceptions of hard-core avant-gardists, but owing at least as much to an evident shared love of bluesy hard bop and freewheeling circus music.

(Scott Currie)

Instabilitrio: Oh God, Don’t Let Me Die in a Place Like This           HBPCD-002

1–4    Try to Get It Right This Time
1                                       2:17
2                                       1:17
3                                       1:39
4                                       2:24

5        Ring Zone A            7:49
6        Transvergence         9:11
7        Ring Zone B            7:13

8–12  We Ran Until We Heard the Mountain
1                                       2:26
2                                       3:32
3                                       1:44
4                                       1:28
5                                       1:40

13     Ring Zone C             5:30
14     Last Call                   6:28

Total playing time 54:38

Improvisations by

Scott Currie: alto and baritone sax
Edward Schneider: alto sax
Erkki Huovinen: guitar, organ pedal, harmonica

Tracks 1–13 recorded at the University of Minnesota, Ferguson Hall, Minneapolis, May 8–9, 2010; track 14 recorded at the Art of This gallery, Minneapolis, May 11, 2010.

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