Personnel: Arild Andersen (double bass, electronics); Tommy Smith (shakuhachi, tenor saxophone); Paolo Vinaccia (drums).
Recording information: Rainbow Studio, Oslo (12/2012).
Photographer: Roar Vestad.
The trio of bassist Arild Andersen, drummer Paolo Vinaccia, and saxophonist Tommy Smith released Live at Belleville back in 2008. That recording was a startling workout that balanced fiery improvisation (uncharacteristic for the bassist since he engaged in it in a trio setting on 1972's Triptykon with Edward Vesala and Jan Garbarek), Norwegian folk themes, and lyric invention. For all of its kinetic energy, it nonetheless managed to communicate an intimacy and equanimity that few trios could generate with such an enthusiastic audience. Mira showcases a different side of this group nearly six years on. The program is made up of nine Andersen tunes, while his bandmates contribute a pair too. Most of this offering is made up of midtempo and slower-tempo works, though all are warm, exploratory, and full of welcome surprises and a subtle but ever-present energy. Opener "Bygone" is a ballad initially with a melodic statement from Smith, but by the time of Andersen's solo, it has dissembled into a more spacious -- yet no less physical -- work that moves through adventurous ideas that are only implied by the lyric. "Rossetti" commences at midtempo, but offers emotionally searing playing by Smith, moving about through Andersen's earthy, substantive playing (as if the bass were actually part of his torso) to find the edges of the free zone, as Vinaccia dances around them both. The title cut begins as an exercise in improvisation, but becomes a lyrical and investigative ballad with gorgeous playing by Smith. "Blussy" commences with a Vinaccia solo that creates a fluid and avant funky groove for his partners to play off. The lone cover on the set is an inspired reading of "Alfie," with Andersen and Smith engaging in committed, emotionally complementary interplay. The scalar and rhythmic exchanges on "Eight and More" are Andersen at his compositional best; they allow the trio to stretch a restrained harmonic line to the breaking point. Vinaccia's abstract yet inherently focused and intuitive drumming doesn't respond so much as anticipate the dialogue between the composer and saxophonist. On Mira, this trio's musical language has evolved to express a different dialect, one full of inquiry, intelligence, and soul. ~ Thom Jurek