Gary Peacock Trio – Tangents
(ECM 574 1910. CD review by Brian Marley)
Gary Peacock seems to have been around forever. Those of us with an especially long memory will recall his fleet-fingered, hugely inventive playing on various Albert Ayler albums during the early 1960s, in particular Spiritual Unity, a landmark in American free jazz and an astonishment to this day. During the same period he was in the studio with Bud Shank, Don Ellis, Barney Kessel and … Ravi Shankar. His ability to play both inside and outside the confines of standard musical form with absolute conviction and superb musical judgment meant he would never lack work as a sideman.
He’s always had a strong affinity with pianists. As well as a one-off recording with Bill Evans (Trio 64), he made six albums with Masabumi Kikuchi and Paul Motian in the group Tethered Moon. There’s also a plethora of recordings with Marilyn Crispell, Paul Bley, and the pianist on Tangents, Marc Copland. But he’s probably best known, together with Jack DeJohnette, for his pivotal role in Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio, which made 20 albums between 1983 and 2009, the last of which was issued in 2013. When Jarrett disbanded the group the following year, Peacock quickly recruited Copland and Joey Baron and set about recording Now This, the precursor to Tangents.
Listeners expecting something akin to the Standards Trio were in for a surprise – a pleasant one. Now This was darker in tone, lyrical but sometimes dissonant, and given to bouts of introspection. It felt like a trio finding its way into the heart of the music, and in the process discovering a new working methodology.
That’s true also of Tangents, which, as the title suggests, tends to take the road less travelled and defy listener expectations. It’s a democratic and well-balanced group engaged in a three-way process of music making. The creative push/pull of the players and the way they give each other plenty of unaccompanied solo space can perhaps be heard to best advantage on the title track and the group improvisation Empty Forest, though the readings of Miles Davis’s Blue in Green and Alex North’s theme for Spartacus display just as much musical intelligence and inobviousness.
Peacock composed five of the eleven pieces on Tangents, and they’re sparse and nicely open-ended, a good stimulus for improvisers. Peacock, Baron and Copland consistently get the best out of them, and each other. Theirs is an unflashy music, subtle as the devil, which I suspect will reveal its treasures gradually, over a number of listens – something I look forward to.