Two New TUM Releases: John Tchicai & Triot/Aaltonen, Cyrille & Workman
Five of the seven tunes are Aaltonen’s, and they lean towards wandering lyrical journeys. The ballad “Serenity” simmers with Aaltonen’s smoky, raw tone and Cyrille’s shimmering cymbal backdrop. “Supplications” pulls the spiritual weight of a Coltrane dirge, the trio’s voices merging in an impassioned cross talk. Workman first bows, then adds thick, picked phrases, Cyrille points out multiple rhythmic directions on snare and cymbal while Aaltonen unwinds long strings of husky, rasping tenor sax.
But it is Aaltonen’s flute that provides the album’s most meaningful moments. On Cyrille’s suite “The Navigator,” his full-bodied tone and heavy vibrato gives the melody lonely immediacy, contrasting sharply with Cyrille’s low-key march and Workman’s piercing upper-register stabs and double-stops. Workman underpins the second part with a cyclical, swinging 6/8, and Aaltonen shows a more rhythmic, though still melodic side. “Still Small Voice” again features Aaltonen, this time darting in and out of Workman and Cyrille’s fragmented pulse.
But the real proof of this group’s maturity and inventiveness is “Effervesce,” a tune that embodies its title. Aaltonen sets the pace with a rapid, stuttering fragment, like a bebop phrase set free from its harmonic foundation. Cyrille at first colors with shakers, a gong and glass bottle, then falls silent for Workman to enter with a churning pulse. When Cyrille re-enters, he brings the trio to a rolling boil. Just when you think they will ascend to a full out peak, Workman takes a bowed solo that is a smear of upper-register clusters and percussive beating. They create the feeling of freedom, but with an unfelt craftsmanship.
On Reflections Aaltonen, Workman and Cyrille demonstrate that free music and lyricism are not mutually exclusive ideas. By using a restraint learned from experience, they show that intense introspection can generate as much raw emotional impact as the most explosive expression.
Personnel: Juhani Aaltonen: tenor saxophone, flute; Reggie Workman: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums, percussion.