Sunday, March 09, 2014

CD Reviews: Cory Wright Outfit & Ton Trio II

Cory Wright Outfit
Apples and Oranges

Ton Trio II
On And On
(Singlespeed Music)

Singlespeed released the Cory Wright Outfit's disc back in the fall, while Ton Trio II's album just appeared a little over a month ago. Like previous items on the label (which is run by saxophonist Aram Shelton) both reveal an uninhibited sense of adventure, marked by strong compositions and a tendency to blow freely as the situation calls for it.

Wright's group starts out in familiar surroundings but by the end of Apples and Oranges, they're planted firmly in their own unique territory. The same can be said for several of the compositions and the multiple sections they contain. They get further leverage from the horn-heavy lineup of Wright (tenor saxophone, b-flat clarinet), Evan Francis (alto sax, flute), Rob Ewing (trombone) who are joined by Lisa Mezzacappa (bass) and Jordan Glenn (drums).

"Freddie Awaits the Sleepers" has a stop-time melody that emphasizes the off beats. The band plays changes during Ewing's solo, while he cuts his own melodic path with plenty of energy. The saxes each take their own solo and keep the mood going. Ewing later gets in a spirited chase with Wright (now on clarinet) and Francis (flute) in "Low Impact Critter," which begins with both reeds playing rapid eighth notes in unison. The same two reeds add a rich texture to "The Sea and Space." It begins like a ballad showcase for Ewing but by the end, the group locks into an arty vamp for an alto solo that has a dirty funk tone when Francis starts blowing.

"Whaticism" also packs a lot of ideas into a seven-minute track. In the spirit of mid-'60s post-bop (reminds these ears of the between-free-and-structured work of perhaps Grachan Moncur III and Andrew Hill) everyone gets room for a brief, concise solo, including a twisted line from Francis. "Eyedrop," the longest track at 11 minutes, slowly evolves from muttering horns to a slow riff in 3/4 where the clarinet whine is answered by the other horns. Wright leaves his mark here both in a solo and in what he's written. The West Coast players make an impact that can be compared to Shelton's Fast Citizen comrades in Chicago, so this album will hopefully get into the hands of more eager listeners.

Shelton's alto is the guiding force in Ton Trio II, which also has Scott Brown on bass and Alex Vittum on drums. Ornette Coleman's inspiration comes to mind with On and On, as the compositions often feature all three instruments playing the themes in unison. Shelton also admittedly uses "folky" melodies in his writing, which immediately grab the ear. But he too likes to employ different settings in the space of one tune. After a boppy theme in "Let's All Go," Brown plays an out-of-tempo solo that moves through a wide range of his bass, eventually leading into a 6/8 vamp that gives Shelton room to blow long and short phrases. Vittum then gets his spot to play with dynamics and lengths of phrases before the brief head gets restated.

"We Were Told" by contrast is a slow, mournful piece where Shelton sounds like he's trying to approximate the woody tone of a clarinet. As it goes on, he squeezes the reed until he gets a strong growl out of it. Just drums accompany him in his solo, and then Brown grabs the bow to restate the theme and take his own solo. While things more very deliberately, the execution by the trio keeps it compelling.

Interplay is a crucial part of Ton Trio II. Whether they're playing sparse tracks like "Findings" or short, brighter moments like "Layover," they also keep their energy focused on each other and on a forward direction. Kudos to Singlespeed for two more strong additions to their catalog.

1 comment:

Singlespeed said...

Mike, thanks for the review! (and our first double) Here are a few tracks from Singlespeed releases.