Piano-less trio delivers discreetly elegiac melodies alongside their stinging grooves.
Kevin Le Gendre 2012
Some jazz musicians argue that a horn-led trio, sans piano, is a tricky proposition because there are no chords to map their improvisations. Others relish the added room for harmonic manoeuvre, which they see as a greater test, an exercise in risk rather than reliable formulae. On a practical note, the instruments in a trio are heard very clearly, and the absence of a keyboard can actually make the music a tad more concentrated and resonant. Partikel, comprising drummer Eric Ford, double bassist Max Luthert and tenor-soprano saxophonist Duncan Eagles, a London-based combo who debuted with an eponymous release in 2010, provide a convincing case for arguments two and three in this debate.
Bolstered by an excellent mix from Tyler McDiarmid, the trio packs a hefty punch over a dozen relatively short pieces that are freighted with sufficient changes and dynamics to satisfy those in search of compositional richness, yet retain a dance-like sensibility to suggest that the players have imbibed some of the trance-like riffing prevalent in folk music, be it Caribbean or North African. The Restless Child is a case in point. Swaying between what feels like 6 and 7/8, the piece unfurls one fraught bluesy theme after another, before deftly altering emotional tack in the coda. Dark shades turn to brightness as the band slides into a swinging reggae calypso that is given extra thrust by the sharply clipped cowbells supplementing Ford’s snare and kick. Indeed, percussion reveals itself to a be a central component of the ensemble sound, practically turning the trio into a quartet by way of an added barrage of notes that frequently superimposes a staggered, off the beat feel, during which Eagles and Luthert loop their lines muscularly.
All of which brings forth an echo of contemporary prime movers such as Steve Coleman, or the much lesser-known Jorge Sylvester, though the influences are varied, and on more than one occasion there is a teasing sliver of 60s progressives Joe Henderson and Yusef Lateef. While Partikel’s stinging grooves are liable to jump out on first listening, their melodies, discreetly elegiac, are no less memorable.