AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Vance Provey Whit Dickey Spin Dunbar – 1983-Motifs 2023 [NHIC Records NHIC-017]

Forty years after it was recorded in a New York studio, the New Haven Improvisers Collective’s record label released this interesting, 1983 trumpet trio recording by trumpeter/composer Vance Provey, drummer Whit Dickey, and double bassist Spin Dunbar. This was a working trio that met when Dickey and Dunbar were students at Bennington College, where Provey was a resident artist and teaching assistant. The recording captured them at early stages in their creative lives. Provey is currently active in Connecticut, while Dickey went on to play with Matthew Shipp, Ivo Perelman, David S. Ware, and others. Dunbar, who had to give up music after an accident, is now a stained glass artist in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The chemistry binding the three together is apparent from this relatively short (ca. 30 minutes long) recording, which focuses on Provey’s motif-centered compositions. Each of the five motifs is organized by Provey’s melodic themes, mostly played in mid-register. Structurally, Provey alternates long tones with shorter bursts of notes, setting up a tension internal to the lead line; the lack of a harmony instrument allows him the freedom to develop the line in creative ways. Dunbar’s bass is placed in contrapuntal opposition to the trumpet; with the exception of the bowed drone tone that forms the foundation of Motif 1, Dunbar plays an energetic, agitated line that works in close cooperation with Dickey’s free-rhythms. On Motif 4 this group dynamic works out to a propulsive bass-and-drum attack on the one side, counterbalancing Provey’s long tones on the other; on the more reflective Motif 5, the trio’s restlessness is more widely dispersed throughout musical space. All told these are solid performances, happily rescued from obscurity.
Daniel Barbiero