Because Trio X is a free jazz band, I sort of expected a live set from the New York City-based group to be a bunch of self-indulgent horseplay. But they proved my expectations wrong, because multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, bassist Dominic Duval, and drummer Jay Rosen performed some of the most surreal and inventive jazz music I’ve heard in a long, long time. The trio spent the evening deconstructing and remaking well-known jazz standards (McPhee’s work on “God Bless the Child” was particularly impressive), transforming numbers that had been performed thousands of times into something that was distinctly their own.
Trio X’s set included such standards as “Blue Monk,” “Evidence,” “God Bless the Child,” and “My Funny Valentine,” as well as a handful of their originals. They also performed an untitled, completely improvised tune dedicated to late saxophonist Dewey Redmond; it turned out to be one of the evening’s biggest highlights. Obviously there’s no way you can rehearse improvised music. But the untitled song sounded as if they’d practiced it for months. And just when I thought the music couldn’t get any sweeter, Trio X did something that was damn near surreal. McPhee and Duval sang the initial verses of R&B shouter Edwin Starr’s 1970’s protest funk jam “War,” then mixed that with the melody of “My Funny Valentine.” It was improvisational creativity at its absolute finest, and reaffirmed what’s often the most wonderful thing about avant-garde groups like Trio X: they’re always searching for new ways to present the music.
Charles L. Latimer