Thursday, October 08, 2020

CD Review: Charlotte Greve/ Vinnie Sperrazza/ Chris Tordini - The Choir Invisible


Charlotte Greve/Vinnie Sperrazza/Chris Tordini
The Choir Invisible

Tom Lehrer, the great satirical composer and pianist, once quipped that most folks songs are so atrocious because they were written by "the people." Although it was said for a laugh (which it rightfully received) it implies that folk music is synonymous with simple forms, which can be utilized by the most amateur musician. When a jazz song is described as having a folk melody, the same thing is implied. The composition isn't based on a complex set of bebop changes. More likely it has to do with a simple melody (maybe built on a pentatonic scale, though I can't say for sure) and a 1-IV-V set of chords, if that. Simple building blocks, but depending on how they're used, they can still form so great music.

These thoughts came to mind while listening to the collaborative trio of Charlotte Greve (alto saxophone), Vinnie Sperrazza (drums) and Chris Tordini (bass), in which all three compose. Several of these pieces sounds simple, built on a vamp or an arpeggio. But their cohesive skill makes sure that even an ostinato like "Chant," which opens the album, kicks things off with immediate direction. Simple or not, the trio makes things sound full and infectious.

Tordini, who plays in a number of sax/bass/drums trios, shows his flexibility here. He might hold down a solid groove with Sperrazza in "Low," but he also joins Greve in playing a melody on "Change Your Name" and "Daily Task." The bassist's "Zuppio" has a stop-start melody that, to these ears, recalls Thelonious Monk's rarely heard "Gallop's Gallop," at least in the version played solo by Steve Lacy. Yet, it moves somewhere else entirely when the trio moves past the theme. Greve's lines never get too complex and even sound spare at times, yet that's just what the music seems to call for in "Low." Her tone is unique - inquisitive like Lee Konitz but fuller, with a smoothness that she maintains in the lower register.

While The Choir Invisible sometimes recalls the lively openness of Ornette Coleman's trio with David Izenzon and Charles Moffatt, the closing title track evokes another practitioner of simple but deep writing: Paul Motian. (I'm not just saying that because Sperrazza wrote the tune either.) Greve and Tordini play the melody, not perfectly in sync but with a slight delay for more drama. Sperrazza rubs his brushes on the snare, adding more color by gradually moving around the kit, finally delivering some cymbal crashes that stop short of overpowering the group. The whole thing sounds through-composed though, by the time we get to this part of the album, it could be that the trio's rapport has developed so much that they can improvise together as easily as they can play a theme.  

While this trio (who will probably be called the Choir Invisible on future releases) are serious about what they play, they also seem like they enjoy each other's company, which comes through in their performance. 


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