Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Max Johnson Trio - The Invisible Trio

Max Johnson Trio
The Invisible Trio
Fresh Sounds Records

Kirk Knuffke - Cornet
Max Johnson - Bass
Ziv Ravitz - Drums

The Invisible Trio is the second release I’m aware of by this group, following 2012’s Elevated Vegetation. I’m not sure if the title is a wry commentary on the commercial prospects of the group, but Trio hopefully will go some distance towards correcting any injustice in visibility.

I like how the group lets the music unfold organically, somewhat like Other Dimensions in Music used to do, although the structure is compositionally-based, all from the pen of Johnson. There’s an appealing openness and looseness to the sound, and when things get uptempo I’m reminded of Ornette’s classic quartet (without the alto, of course) in the way the bass and drums propel things forward.

Kirk Knuffke eschews extended techniques for the most part, but doesn’t need them to express himself fully. He has an unhurried approach that suits the vibe of the group, and is an expressive improviser. Johnson’s technique is flawless, whether playing arco or pizzicato. In addition to Haden, I can also hear a little David Izenzon in his sound. Ravitz carries on a nice conversation with the other trio members with some well-placed commentary, and can turn up the heat when required.

There’s a sense that every note, every accent, counts on this record, and the excellent recording quality picks up every nuance. This unassuming album worms its way into your heart, and it’s one you’ll want to return to frequently.

You can get The Invisible Trio as a download or CD from Max Johnson’s Bandcamp site. Here's a performance clip from their appearance at Barbes in Brooklyn from early 2012:

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