The 1952 Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker quartet set the trend. Erroll Garner and a nine-foot concert grand had left a club where Mulligan was playing off-nights. Fearing a 66-key studio upright, Gerry quickly adapted. Both Sonny Rollins (Way Out West - 1957) and Joe Henderson ( State of the Tenor -1986) are outstanding examples of the genre. Renzi, influenced by George Garzone and The Fringe, follows in their footsteps.
Freedom has its price. The pianoless concept requires strong players who will really listen to each other. With no anchoring piano chords, the bass and bass line become more important and both bassist and drummer have dual ensemble and rhythm roles. That is what the Matt Renzi Trio is up to on Lunch Special.
Renzi is a superb saxophonist with a mellow tone who makes full use of his instrument's musical potential. I stress "musical" as he avoids the squeaks and squawks and other noises often associated with free jazz. His melodies are meant for improvisation and his trio explores them like a Sonny Rollins extended solo, but with the seemingly infinite possibilities of three instruments. On the opening "Circolazione" the theme is stated, taken through rhythmic and melodic twists and turns, and brought home to a soft landing. "Pula Paradise" is a haunting melody, made more so by Renzi's clarinet and Dave Ambrosio's bowed bass. On "Nothing Could Be" a combination of bass and tenor create an illusion of two horns! Russ Meissner, whose percussive arsenal has added colors and accents throughout, has plenty of space on the title tune. There are many more remarkable musical happenings in Lunch Special but what will draws you to the music is its overall mood. Listen for both.
The trio has kept its music fresh over many years. This results from the band's goals: to listen hard to each player, not push the music where it doesn't want to go , let the music unfold and breathe. Lunch Special will make you want to hear much more from the Matt Renzi Trio.