Pianist and Harvard biochemist Lowell Skinner Davidson recorded one striking trio-based album for the "ESP" record label back in 1965. And per guitarist Joe Morris’ liner notes, "Lowell used his background as a biochemist (at Harvard) to describe his approach to music." For this outing, the musicians apply some of Davidson’s scores made during the ‘80s that were notated on index cards, which the pianist scribed in an untraditional manner. Davidson passed away in 1990 while bassist John Voigt and trombonist Tom Plsek respectively add their insights and experiences with the artist. Hence, they underscore the basis for this curiously interesting endeavor by delving into Davidson’s distinct compositional style, teeming with geometric movements and other components. And they navigate that sometimes, opaque division between melody and sound-sculpting exercises.
Given the all-acoustic instrumentation, the trio yields an organic sound yet impressively conjures up a horde of persuasive contrasts. With Morris’ buzzing guitar licks, Voigt’s creaky arco-lines and Plsek’s occasional multiphonics implementations, the band seemingly freezes in time, the aura of Davidson’s unique musicality. It’s a tight-knit operation, counterbalanced by the trio’s loose groove modus operandi.
Think of jagged circles moving at a rapid pace, or fractured mini-motifs that are intertwined in an unconventional manner. The artists project a myriad of off-kilter effects, often centered upon Plsek’s rough-hewn notes, Voigt’s strenuous plucking and Morris’ whirlwind phrasings. Then on "Index Card #3," Voigt’s walking bass line provides a foundation for his band-mates’ explorative, mid-tempo swing. However, no two pieces are conspicuously alike, evidenced for example, on "Double Sheet," as the band delves into a wily and complex sequence of events where Morris serves as the middleman.
Many of the passages spark notions of casual discussions amid nip and tuck ensemble work, although they never lull you into a complacent mood, due to the musicians’ swift breakouts. At times, Morris executes closed-hand chord clusters while Voigt is apt to inject eerie or harrowing bowed-bass maneuvers into the program. It’s an album that bears a mark of authenticity. They elevate the improvisational element into loftier heights throughout this superfine undertaking.