Depending on who’s listening, the piano trio is either one of the most versatile settings in jazz or one of the most exhausted. The Parisian combo Prysm lends extra credence to the former assessment, taking advantage of the format’s inherent flexibility in order to reshape its worn-out conventions. Pianist Pierre de Bethmann likes to use brilliant locked-hands melodic flourishes and firm McCoy Tyner-esque chords, drummer Benjamin Henocq is always propulsive, even when his tom-heavy playing verges on bombast, and bassist Christophe Wallemme is consistently in the pocket with his great big sound. They slip allusions to dance and hip-hop rhythms into their otherwise straightforward piano jazz, and while this is hardly groundbreaking, it does sound fresh: their combinations never seem haphazard or insincerely funked up. The trio’s third outing, Time (released in France on Blue Note), consists entirely of elegant original compositions, contributed in more or less equal number by each of the three members. On Bethmann’s “Outlines,” they toy with the steady ting-ting-a-ling of the ride cymbal, introducing subtly competing counterrhythms that niftily disturb the pH balance of the original pattern. And on Henocq’s “X-Ray,” a dreamy, repeated arpeggio floats over jungle-inflected percussion and a driving, two-note bass figure, but then the music is enveloped by an environmental recording of what sounds like a subway station–as though you’ve awakened on a platform bench. Wednesday, 7 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630. JOHN CORBETT
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mephisto.