CD review

Cross Currents Trio – Good Hope

Cross Currents Trio – Good Hope
(Edition Records EDN1136. CD Review by Jon Turney)

A little late to reviewing this one, but for a good reason: It’s one of those recordings I kept postponing writing about because I wanted to keep listening. That’s rare, but an unusually strong feeling this time. So what makes this trio release from Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain and Chris Potter such a thrill?

It isn’t because it is unprecedented. Indo-jazz fusions abound. Andy Sheppard’s work with Kuljit Bhamra, for instance, finds many echoes here, with Potter’s soprano sax sound agreeably close to the Englishman’s. The three performers are all very familiar, and between them have a huge body of work at then highest level.

Yet this collaboration, a spin off from a larger Cross Currents ensemble that Hussain brought together a few years ago, still sounds special. Intimate, Holland, calls it. That’s true for the listener – trios often are. Also, one senses, for the players. The hook up between bassist and percussionist is extraordinarily close, Holland’s continuing interest in increasing his rhythmic facility finding much to bite on here. Hussein, for whom rhythmic virtuosity now seems as natural as breathing, ups his melodic game, using the tabla to double lines from both other players, as he pleases. Potter, exposed as the principal melodic voice most of the time, also plays with great rhythmic freedom, as well as producing some of his finest improvisational flights.

The results, over eight tunes, are a deep pleasure. Each track is a fluid three-way dance. Hussain’s rain-on-the-roof percussion blends with the now prowling, now prancing bass and arabesque lines from the sax. These three have so much music in their nerves, and their fingers, that there are moments that seem to allude to a host of other bands, old and new. Potter’s sound sometimes recalls the way Shabaka Hutchings chews up the rhythm in Sons of Kemet, for instance, while on his own Good Hope, he moves closer to Sonny Rollins in calypso mode.

But these impressions are fleetinng. As soon as one delightful thing happens, another succeeds it. Sometimes it is simply the beauty of Holland’s bass sound, one of the glories of jazz of the last fifty years. Sometimes the way Hussain’s astoundingly detailed percussion accompaniment energises a bass or sax solo. Sometimes the way bass and percussion together cushion Potter’s lines. All the time, the dynamic of the trio. At every turn, each of them matches the others’ moves to perfection.

This kind of thing might lead to a sound that seems too well-engineered: the precision watch effect. Not so here, where the improvisation, and the players manifest delight in each other’s presence, seem wonderfully fertile. The openness of the trio allows for a music which incorporates the many kinds of sonic wisdom these three can offer, and enhances them. They achieve a sound that is highly organised yet sounds always spontaneous. None has ever played better, I reckon. Together, they make music that feels as alive as any I’ve heard. It’s that quality, I think, that keeps me coming back.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. jonturney.co.uk.  Twitter: @jonWturney 

LINK: Cross Currents conclude their European tour with a London Jazz Festival date at Cadogan Hall on 17 November. 

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