Sunday, February 04, 2007

Black History Month: The Psyche

An enthusiastic hat tip to Destination Out for turning my ears on to this great trio. In observance of Black History Month at HurdAudio my ears turn toward The Psyche from 1975 by The Revolutionary Ensemble: Leroy Jenkins on violin and viola, Sirone on bass, and Jerome Cooper on drums and piano.

"Invasion" - After a long intro of sustained string tones and percussive bells, this epic track eventually settles into a steady groove as Leroy Jenkins improvises over the the steady pulse of Cooper's drumming and Sirone's walking bass. The texture then recedes for an unaccompanied bass solo. A violin cadenza soon follows. This time, Jenkins is unanchored by the rhythm section as he carves out an entirely different melodic line with a nasal, sul ponticello tone. There's an austere, expressive beauty to the sound as Jenkins often fades toward a mere whisper. A duet of piano and bass then juxtaposes on the heels of Jenkins' utterance. Here the expressive freedom of the violin solo takes root and expands with greater density and volume with this different instrumentation. After a long conversation between bass and piano the violin returns as Cooper moves back behind the drum kit. The energy level continues to pick up as the full trio settles in with Jenkins providing linear material over an animated, jagged simmer from the bass and drums.

"Hu-man" - Jerome Cooper gets his turn as this track opens with a drum solo. Jenkins and Sirone then present a melodic line played a couple octaves apart before the rhythm section pulls back to support Jenkins as he expressively explores melodic variations on the stated theme. After a solid dose of great trio playing Cooper returns with another drum solo before the opening theme is restated by the strings to conclude this work.

"Col Legno" - Sirone opens this work with a 3/4 col legno bass line (a bowing technique where the wood of the bow is bounced along the strings). Jenkins and Cooper play some thematic material on violin and piano over the top and then branch out into some improvised material as Sirone keeps the col legno sound percolating along. Even without the drums, this track maintains a strong groove even as the players drift into increasingly "free" territory. A little over half way in Cooper switches to the drums and adds spare accents to a bowed bass solo from Sirone. This solo is amazing. Elongated tones fluctuate in pitch and dynamics and take on the quality of impassioned human utterance. As Sirone settles into a bowed ostinato Cooper accompanies him with a quiet drum roll as Jenkins plays some sustained, high pitches on the violin as the trio coalesces toward coda.

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