AMN Reviews: Anna Webber’s Simple Trio – Binary (2016; Skirl Records)

 

Unlike the moniker, Anna Webber’s trio is anything but simple. Consisting of creative music veterans John Hollenbeck on drums and Matt Mitchell on piano, along with Webber on sax and flute, the group takes this non-traditional, bassless lineup in non-traditional directions.

The title of Binary suggests Webber’s compositional approach. She used a plethora of Internet sources for inspiration, including random number generators, “websites that turn words into drumbeats, YouTube test channels, and even her own IP address.” According to Webber, this prevented her writing from falling into a rut.

Nonetheless, Binary shares a characteristic of many offerings in this space – a blurred line between where the compositions end and the improvisations begin. To that point, Webber, Hollenbeck and Mitchell go beyond the jazz trio, incorporating the feel and structure of European avant-rock, as well as that of Scelsi and Grisey. Dense themes and motifs are repeated with minor variations, but Webber reserves ample space for her own non-linear soloing. Hollenbeck’s playing is both tight and more free than usual, making atypical noises around the edges of his kit. Mitchell is percussive, hammering out chords and delicately asserting unexpected notes at unusual timings.

The end result is an unapologetic, mathy approach to modern “Brooklyn” style jazz, coalescing in an intelligent and angular release. Highly recommended.

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