Day & Taxi,
(Percaso, 1998)

Having been around for over a decade, this Swiss-based trio plays intelligent jazz with a loose, supple feel. The compositions -- all but one are by Christoph Gallio -- move with a gentle lope through large intervallic leaps and mild dissonances, although they often mix metres to excellent effect. These provide jumping-off points for improvisations which are firmly based on the solo-plus-accompaniment model but which are just as firmly removed from considerations of changes playing or modal forms.

This is, as John Corbett implies in his uncharacteristically sketchy sleeve notes, creative music which remembers its own history without being enslaved to it. Gallio's tone on the soprano and alto sax is nasal but light, as if he were playing some kind of Middle-Eastern oboe. His playing is angular but always logical, and rarely prone to fireworks. Indeed, Gallio seems to prefer to follow notes around at a leisurely pace, with his slow vibrato and tendency to scoop his notes up and toss them into the air. This doesn't mean he avoids extremes, however; indeed, he's clearly well-versed in the more "extended" techniques available on the saxophone. He uses them sparingly, integrating them into his playing with the intention of creating an organic connection with his straighter style. It works. On "Lindsay's New Tune," Gallio can be heard mixing up all kinds of techniques without ever dropping the thread he so carefully spins out when playing.

Dominique Girod (bass) sounds full and sumptuous here, and his playing is always full of ideas. Virtually everything he plays, even the most casual gesture, has a studied funkiness about it; virtually every bar could be a riff in its own right. When he picks up the bow, he takes a more abstract turn (as is so often the case), but never turns his back completely on the melodic and rhythmic world which the trio likes to inhabit. Fortunately, he gets a lot of solo space, playing alongside Dieter Ulrich (drums), whose springy rhythms suit him perfectly. Mostly Ulrich plays time, but he does so with such a relaxed swing that often it's implied rather than stated, or else the ride cymbal provides the only apparent reference-point in a swirl of complex but seemingly effortless polyrhythms.

This is a sharp, clever trio who can play this rather quiet sort of free jazz -- rather than the energy music which is so popular among revivalists today -- with absolute conviction, making it feel very contemporary. Gallio especially is a player who I hope we'll hear more from in the future.

[ by Richard Cochrane ]