By Ken Waxman
Musically Dre Hocevar is the most generous of leaders. What else would describe the performances on this, his second CD? For while the Slovenian drummer composed all but one of the tracks here, the bulk of the space is given over to the playing of Belgian pianist Bram De Looze and American cellist Lester St. Louis. One track, “Cello Interlude No. 1” in fact, is just that – St. Louis, on his own, sounding out a darkened intermezzo of taut double stops and hardened sweeps.
It isn’t as if Hocevar has written a series of set pieces designed for showy swinging. Restraint is the key word here, as each player’s textures move infinitesimally carefully to slide alongside the others’ like sardines in a can. But unlike canned sardines, Hocevar’s pieces are of varied shapes, sizes and boniness, with the barbed cello lines contrasting markedly but outstandingly with De Looze as he seems intent on pouring as many pointed notes into the tunes as possible. As a percussion variant of Count Basie’s piano economy, Hocevar craftily limits himself to intermittent, vibrating clatters, clunks and claps. He rouses if appropriate though, For example he provides the splattering thunder and lightning backing the pianist’s timbral deluge on “Form of the Future Thought”; or on “Second Portrait of the Exemplary” his subtle cymbal colors provide thematic coherence to what formerly was a showdown between orotund cascades from De Looze and dark double-stopping from St. Louis.
This condensed coding is broken down even more on the CD’s most atypical tracks however. On “Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)”, Sam Pluta’s almost out-of-range electronics and signal processing mutate the trio’s acoustic interface amplifying it with sizzling crunches and magnetic draughts. To maintain individuality it also seems as if the pianist is quoting “Someone to Watch over Me”. The trio’s idiosyncrasy continues on the subsequent “Representational Redescription” as drones from an electric piano maintain the pseudo-processed mood, which is further extended with cymbal sizzles. Speedy piano glissandi, the cello’s buzzing bass line and singular drum taps combine to create an atmospheric continuum that suggests electronics while remaining resolutely acoustic.
It’s this element of uncommon surprises that make this CD a notable listening experience. Still Hocevar should be more assertive next time.