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CD Feature/ Cross Border Trio: "New Directions"

img  Tobias

Jazz, it seems, has always gone to extremes to stay fresh. Way back, it was the integration of latin elements and the inclusion of electricity. In the 90s and the new millenium, it engaged in dangerous liaisons with samplers and computer technology, travelled to the lands of rock, visited its far relatives in pop territory and even strayed to the outskirts of ambient. Jason Robins and his companions, however, did not have to journey all that far – just crossing the border was quite enough.

The Mexican-American border to be precise, la frontera, a “rich region” as Robinson points out and a divide which really is none. Like the membrane of an open cell, it regulates the in- and outflow of creative energy on a formal level, but surrenders to the synaptic tingling of willfull second messengers. It was chance, friendship and a mutual musical understanding which shaped the Cross Border Trio, a continous stream of concerts and live performances which moulded and solded its components together and a spirited split between the love for a certain tradition (the band itself would call it “precedent”) and the absolute and unbending intention of exploring new ground which fired its engine. So many nowadays define themselves over what they are not, but this ensemble has a clear positive image of its course: Making the act of creation its focal point, writing its own standards, embracing the music of befriended artists, developing the dynamics of improvisation to a point where everyone is completely himself and all are one, as well as using the limitations of the chord-less trio (bass, sax, drums) as an advantage over more extensive instrumentations. If the liner notes claim to prefer the term “creative music” over “jazz”, then this sums up these thoughts nicely, but equally comes as a surprise – after all, where’s the contradiction? (and doesn’t the inclusion of – by the way atmospheric and informative – liner notes already hint at a typical jazz-tradition?) Once the music starts, there are no puzzles any more, though, as it all falls into place: The new and the old meet as Robinson plays  smooth and melodic lines with the urgent staccato of the 21st century, Paquito Villa manages to make his armbreakingly complex percussions sound like pure madcap poetry, while latest group member Rob Thorsen puts the decisive stamp on the pieces with a suspenseful, pumping and yet casual and cool bass. It is him who holds the individual pieces together and whose motoric unity with Villa enables the trio to take a break from their occasionally nervously charged crescendos and leave things to flow on their own.

Interestingly, though, it is not the compositional power alone which render this special. It is the radical intros (“17th and Capp” starts with almost two minutes of disentangled percussion sounds) and the fiery middle sections, when the musicians sever all ties and come up with razorsharp interactions, that “New Directions” truly lives up to its name: Just like its creators, it then crosses all those borders which really are none at all.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Cross Border Trio
Homepage: Circumvention Music

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