Alternating Currents is drummer Jeff Cosgrove’s interpretation of one of jazz’s most basic and versatile units: the piano trio. Joined by bassist William Parker and pianist Matthew Shipp, Cosgrove blends the give-and-take of the trio format with the conversational tradition of free improvisation.
As would be expected from these players, the interactions are solidly grounded in attentive listening and nimble response. Each of the three tracks—two improvisations and the Paul Motian composition Victoria—coheres by virtue of the thematic and rhythmic structures the musicians deftly create in real time. The first piece, a nearly 40-minute long exploration of theme and free variation, is built around an opening melody played on the tom toms, which mutates, develops, dissolves and reappears in different guises as it gets picked up and passed around. On the title track Shipp builds an elaborate structure out of Parker’s initial bowed chording; Cosgrove’s brushwork propels the music along a rapid course in open time. After the first two tracks, Victoria at under 6 minutes long feels like a brief coda, its rubato impressionism the product of Shipp’s exploratory interpretation of the melody matched to Parker’s restless basslines and Cosgrove’s sensitive drumming.