Jay Rosen Trio | CIMP Records
Drums 'N Bugles
By Phillip McNally

Great artists sometimes need the challenge of severe restrictions to rise to their finest moments. The vaunted freedom of an artist to do whatever he or she desires can lead to indulgence and delusions in all but the greatly inspired. But make a true artist perform under limitations, and the limits themselves can be an opening. Imagine recording in a trio with just drums and two trumpets. No chord instruments, no bottom end, even real limitations in harmonic possibilities. No interior voices to soften up the mix. Sounds right unto impossible, as a concept, doesn't it? But this is the challenge drummer Jay Rosen sets up for himself on his second recording as a leader, almost like throwing down a gauntlet for himself to run. And this trio runs it down with apparent ease.

Of course it helps that Rosen has picked two of the most underrated trumpeters of our time to fill out his band. Herb Robertson and Paul Smoker bring a range of timbres and colors to the trio that is quite amazing, working with mutes and slides, playing open at times, using breath and percussive blats and slurs to extend the voices of their instruments, all beside their intuitive ability to accompany one another sensitively. These are two players who seem unfairly stuck on the second tier of public notice while they have for decades been first tier musicians(I especially mention Robertson's body of work as a leader, much of it woefully out of print since the demise of JMT) So in some ways one has to admit that the "limitations" of this grouping are a ringer, because Rosen has darn well an orchestra in front of him in these two horns. And then of course there is Rosen himself, as colorful and inventive a drummer as you'll find anywhere.

While he has been known lately for his skillful use of dynamics, and that is much in evidence here, his awareness of the tones and pitches in his drum kit-especially in a stripped down setting like this-should not be overlooked. The recording opens with a seven minute elegy for the late Katherine Duval: stately, powerful, at times overwhelming in its quiet passion. While that opening is worth the price of admission, it is only the beginning point for the notable variety of this set. There are some hard core energy blows, like "flair-up" and "torrentials", but also a sweet ballad, "solarity", followed by the jokey two minute laugh of "D and B Core"(get it?) There is even an inspired track titled "supports" where the whole trio plays accompaniment to the solo you play in your mind as you listen. Rosen takes two short drum solos, tastefully placed at the mid point and end of the set, both wonderful and a great place to hear the melodic invention of his drumming. The phrase "self indulgent" never even comes to mind as you listen to either cut. So out of the limitations of this instrumentation Rosen and company produce a grand variety of music.

The idea of a solo performance on a horn or drums, so much a part of the revolution in jazz during the '70's-think of Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell-comes to a strange fruition in this odd trio, I think. Creating variety out of simplicity, trusting in the musicality of the listener to hear some of the unplayed parts, to fill in the missing pieces of the band, are at the heart of Rosen's concept with his trio here. If you are willing to be part of the band, this record will take you to some places you haven't been before. Try it out.