What do Robbie Hunsinger, a classically trained musician, Joseph Jarman, a founding member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and Tatsu Aoki, a bassist raised in Japan, have in common? Well, they share a taste for Eastern music that they acquired following different paths and that they convey to us on this demanding album. This is also the magic of improvised music, to unite artists from different backgrounds with the hope that they can communicate at a high level and produce some great music.
A challenge often raised by such a project is to mingle Eastern and Western instruments, and on Trio these three accomplished musicians pull it off. The bass, saxophones and clarinets coexist with instruments such as the shenai (India) or the sona (China). The prevailing Eastern atmosphere is reinforced by subtle additions. Jarman’s use of cymbals betrays his Buddhist conversion and Aoki’s arco playing produces evocative drones.
The shrill sonorities of the shenai and sona are not for all ears and some might even consider them as an acquired taste. They are, however, made quite palatable through a certain bliss that pervades the music. The best examples are the two pieces that are reminiscent of Japanese procession music—the aptly titled “Procession” and the uplifting “ Cape of Needles”. The three musicians opted for a reflective approach instead of sounding forceful. Overall, the pieces work as improvisations built over a steady pattern or an offbeat background (“Powerhouse” and “eye to eye”) – Hunsinger and Jarman sculpting volutes and serpentine lines.
Tatsu Aoki has been known for trying to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western music. With the help of Hunsinger and Jarman, a new path has been cleared, and Trio proves once again that Chicago remains one the choice places when it comes to exploring uncharted territories.
Available on Melungeon Records.