This disc was released just after the untimely death of drummer Tony Levin. He, bassist Paul Rogers and multi-instrumentalist Paul Dunmall make up the Deep Joy Trio, but their other collaborations are too numerous to detail here. Suffice it to say that they have been together, in one form or another, since the very beginning of Dunmall's career as a solo recording artist; they also form three quarters of Mujician, who played its first concert in 1988. All that is to say that group interaction does not get better than this, and Levin is an integral component of the reason behind it.
The band comes out swinging on this live set, Levin and Rogers hitting hard, Dunmall's soprano engaging them in long flowing lines. There was never a drummer with a deeper groove, a more intuitive sense of swing, than Levin, and it's the driving force behind the opening music on this disc. When Rogers or Dunmall brings the volume down, Levin understands that a reduction in volume does not mean a reduction in energy. He is as sensitive in quiet passages as he is forceful in loud, but always with a remarkable sense of timbre, making his set sound like gongs, tympani and other malleted percussion.
None of this is to denigrate the contributions of the other two participants. Paul Rogers' bass playing is unique among thousands. On his custom-made instrument, he is capable of the widest dynamic and pitch variations, traversing the spectra with ease and in the blink of an eye. Dunmall's playing can be sweet, savage, and cover all points in-between. Yet, it is the trio, as a unit, that is greater than the sum of the parts. Listen to a moment about thirteen minutes into the first improvisation. Rogers begins a kind of tonal ostinato, at the quietest dynamic level, Dunmall provides soft lines behind it, and Levin paints in soft hues around it all, stroking metal and skin in absolute sympathy.
It is heartbreaking to know that this trio will never perform again, but with music as tender and powerful as this, we must just be grateful for its legacy.
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