Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci


TRIO VIRIDITAS – Live at Vision Festival VI (CF 115)
Recorded on June 2, 2001 (a couple of months before Alfred Harth’s departure to the Korean shores, which prevented him to be a New York resident exactly from the most disastrous month of man’s history) this superb concert gives an idea of the potential – sadly unfulfilled due to bassist Wilber Morris’ death in 2002 – of Trio Viriditas, the third member as always the tremendously articulate, ever imaginative Kevin Norton on drums and vibes. In this particular occasion, the music generated by these artists suggests a veritable inviolability, three distinctive personalities – each endowed with inimitable qualities – delivering themselves from any hypothetic artistic puffiness in order to disclose to the lucky spectators both their barest soul and a strong purpose to accomplish the mission through deep, intense paths of conscious agony and just a pinch of fun. Let’s also make perfectly clear that this is a hell of a “must” if one isn’t acquainted with Harth’s reed omniscience and would love to figure out at least a smidgen of what the man is capable of doing (on pocket trumpet too, if saxes and bass clarinet weren’t enough). In a track like “Melancholy”, A23H evidently illustrates why he should be ranked as the ultimate poignant soloist, the phrasing starting with the predisposition to a soft kind of ballad (with hints of melody that even quote – involuntarily? – the “all my troubles seemed so far away” segment of Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday”!) then, out of the blue, exploding in vicious yelps, the upper partials splitting in a thousand fragments, the whole underlined by vocal growling ‘n’ shouting, old bluesman-style. Then again, dissonant popping corks and splintered lines materialize, only to reformat into unrepeatable splendour. Ah, the frustration of not being able to convey the words for those incomparable, literally huge solos. And what a gas, listening to Harth cackle via clarinet in certain sections, or blowing the empire away with well-informed usage of space and time during short yet effective trumpet-based interventions. And the solo in “Viriditas Waltz”, shall we talk about that, too? Stuff that – no kidding here, folks – might elicit the urge of hiding the instruments in the cases and go to sleep for many pretenders, unless they’re open to listening and learning something for once in a lifetime. You should also hear what Norton does, as it’s all substance. The remarkable contrapuntal skill in “Braggadocio” is a noticeable evidence of how talented this percussionist is, a man too humble to be seriously renowned. Not a problem for the cognoscenti, who will instantly identify his “guerrilla smartness”: finesse and concentration amalgamated by one of the brightest architectural minds around. Anthony Braxton, Fred Frith and Joëlle Léandre must have good reasons for having been willing to exchange ideas with this grown-up kid. Knowing that Wilber Morris is not among us anymore is, somehow, akin to urging ourselves to welcome first-rate human beings and outstanding musicians earlier than fate, which comes and modifies what’s erroneously meant as certitude. This man’s bass recalls integralist jazz and chamber music at one and the same time, an emblem in that sense a medley of “Fuer die Katz’s deli(ght)” and “Starbucks”, Morris reciting his intentional extraneousness from any plausible pattern or lick to concentrate on a warm tone, attributing muscle to particularly spacious designs where Norton and Harth seem to come in with utmost ease, sounding as ghosts skating on ice. A bad loss for the world of improvisation, and this CD is just perfect for ringing a bell of memory. There goes the wish of hearing more of this special trio, possibly from Mr.23’s archives: another studio recording, realized in the same period to support tours that – alas – never occurred, definitely exists. If that’s half as powerful as the moving force of this live set, we’re riding high already. Play “Peace”, last selection of the album, louder and louder; open your windows and let everybody rejoice, for this a new jazz masterpiece – no ifs and buts.

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