Pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade have served as the telepathic rhythm section in one of the greatest jazz bands of our time—the quartet that saxophonist Wayne Shorter has led since 2000. In that group those musicians have developed a highly refined sensibility, both elastic and elliptical, using a wide dynamic range to imbue performances with an endless sense of drama and surprise. They’ve occasionally worked together without Shorter, including a few pieces on the pianist’s 2014 album Panama 500 (Mack Avenue), but on the recently released Children of the Light (released by the same imprint) they’ve emerged as a fully contained unit, which is hardly surprising considering the time they’ve spent together.
Without Shorter the trio fills more space than usual, and at first listen they sound more conventional here (although that’s a relative assessment). The compositions—all written by group members, with the exception of Shorter’s “Dolores,” which the saxophonist recorded both as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and with the great Miles Davis Quintet—play with form and structure in a way that mirrors what the trio do behind Shorter, where compositional ideas are fluid. A track like the pianist’s “Sunburn and Mosquito” conveys a remarkable grace for all of the harmonic and rhythmic contortions happening, the trio playing with time like they’re molding a familiar hunk of clay—stretching, compressing, forming sharp angles, and balling it all up to start over again. Pérez usually injects lots of Afro-Cuban flavor into his playing, but here it’s rather suppressed, arriving in disguised fashion, where a montuno rhythm pulses without necessarily conveying any sense of the Caribbean. You can check it out below.
Pérez wrote seven of the pieces here, and in most of them the title makes some reference to light, reinforcing the idea of illumination, searching, and clarity that the album title indicates: “Looking for Light,” “Light Echo,” and “Luz de Alma,” to name a few. A handful of tracks feature electric keyboards and electric bass, giving them a postfusion vibe. But even though “Lumen” possesses some of those fussy trademarks, it slithers and rolls with an appealing warmth, especially when Pérez begins to makes stabbing interjections on an acoustic piano, delivering a sense of Cuban propulsion that’s irresistible. “Light Echo,” which blends with the trio’s take on “Dolores,” rides over a wonderfully twitchy, busy groove; Patitucci spinning hypnotic up-and-down patterns as Blade displaces, accelerates, and detonates beats. The transition into “Dolores” is sudden, but it feels right, especially as the trio tease out tense, terse asides from a flowing, elegant melody line. These musicians all have distinguished careers individually, but I sure hope they continue to realize the power they generate together.
Simon Toldam Trio, Kig Op 14 (ILK)
Nick Sanders Trio, Nameless Neighborhoods (Sunnyside)
Khatia Buniatishvili, Motherland (Sony Classical)
Gjermund Larsen, Trønderbarokk (Ora Fonogram)
Noel Akchote, Gesualdo: Madrigals for Five Guitars (Blue Chopsticks)