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Blue Yonder by Steve Lantner Trio

Blue Yonder is one of the most wildly exploratory piano trio dates I've heard in a long time. Steve Lantner's probing style recalls nothing so much as the very first recordings by Cecil Taylor, when Taylor was still to some extent working within a vein of traditional jazz rather than purveying his own deconstructed idiom as he does today. Bassist Joe Morris and drummer Luther Gray prove sympathetic bandmates, sometimes anchoring the music and sometimes leading the way.

Recorded in May of 2004, the set nonetheless has the feel of a lost session from the mid-sixties heyday of free jazz. The CD has an attractive analog wash courtesy of engineer Amos Scattergood. Morris bows a la Henry Grimes on "If It Really Don't" and Gray's drumming seems indebted to Ed Blackwell when it's rolling on "Long Last" and toward the end of "Three of Four." In other places, he brings to mind Sunny Murray, keeping time by clanging a single cymbal.

All five improvisations are rich and interesting, but occasionally overlong. The title track itself, for example; it opens with a bass motif, then Lantner and Gray come in. The initial momentum carries the piece for a while, but it seems to flag after a few minutes before picking up at the end. A cleverly edited version might have been preferable to the full 11:40 jam, but such is the mixed blessing of the extended length of the CD format. Still, the album has enough richly creative passages to outnumber the few flat ones.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Steve Lantner Trio
  • CD Title: Blue Yonder
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Skycap Records
  • Musicians: Steve Lantner (piano), Joe Morris (bass), Luther Gray (drums)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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