DKV Trio Credit: Ziga Koritnik

In January the DKV Trio released The Fire Each Time (Not Two), a six-CD box set documenting a string of gigs that percussionist Hamid Drake, bassist Kent Kessler, and reedist Ken Vandermark played with multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee in four different countries during the last two months of 2017. This set—and previous DKV recordings featuring the likes of Fred Anderson, Joe Morris, and Mats Gustafsson—testify to the trio’s willingness to collaborate with other improvisers, but the essence of the group’s art is the music they make on their own. When DKV formed in 1994, the three members gave themselves this mission: to improvise long forms that have the cohesiveness of written songs. A quarter century later, they deliver on that promise so consistently that it’s easy to forget how extraordinary it really is that they not only whip up hard-swinging grooves, aching blue melodies, and intricate contrapuntal themes on the spot, but also make them hang together over the course of a set. While each musician is in high demand and out of town for much of the year, they have made it a point to reconvene annually in the last weekend of December.   v