Trios make headway when the members can transcend their interdependence. Since each musician has his own identity, he can move independently of the others in the musical sense and still stay within reach. Interdependence, moreover, becomes an avenue for freeing rather than for binding together. The connector that allows for interdependence is the listening that goes on among the players. That connector opens the way to the success of how independently the musicians can work within their tripartite relationship.
For this recorded live performance in Montreal, McPhee sets the thematic flow on the tenor even though Duval opens with a glissando/pizzicato introduction which Rosen extends with his own lightness of touch on the cymbal and snare. There is a pause before McPhee enters with a tentative flutter which broadens into prolonged notes that gradually collect into phrases. This pattern is repeated nearly unnoticeably until the melody he has created returns. Then as the drums and bass begin to move forward in a crescendo, the tenor starts to surge with reedy split tones. McPhee launches into an exploration whose bounds are self-constructing.
Throughout the recording, Duval and Rosen always play with McPhee, in parallel lines, but lines which respond to him. The bass and drums match the tenor’s extemporaneity, the tenor’s pace, the tenor’s blusteriness. And McPhee pulls back when he hears that Duval or Rosen are locked into a place where either one will proceed with his own expressiveness for awhile only to discover another unknown place in the music at which point all three can merge.
McPhee’s inimitable strength is in stretching a melody every which way it makes sense to go and stop when the time is right. Duval identifies and reads McPhee’s inherent rhythmic base and ornaments it; bent pitches, walking lines, and deep resonant bowing contribute to the unique softness of the space that he shapes. Rosen maintains such a tight rein on his technique that he builds walls, narrow and wide, thin and thick, around and through the music that his partners produce; there is brightness and alacrity within his playing that constantly defies heaviness. All three exhibit the awareness of each other’s capacity for singularity. That each can inspire the other is the meaning behind their unbreakable integrity.
Out of seven tracks, four are dedicated to musicians from the past and present. Duval and McPhee are in a duo for "Here’s That Rainy Day." And the last of the remaining three compositions bounces off the Motown groove of the Temptation’s tune "War" and combines it with "My Funny Valentine" to intone the absurdity of conflict. All we need to do is let the tenderness of the tenor’s song seep into our senses and thoughts of war will leave us altogether, forever.
Trio X has been a team for 10 years. The three have remained a team because they make a good fit. The more we listen, the more we will know that their music has a sturdy balance, one that has no chance of teetering.