Trio Viriditas – Live At Vision Festival VI (CF 115)
A recently-spotted chat group thread queried, “Is the trombone dead?” A large number of responses set the questioner straight but one response was something like, “No. But the vibes and tuba are.” This answer would surprise such active veterans as Gary Burton, Khan Jamal, Bobby Hutcherson and Karl Berger, all of whom are still producing vital music. It would also surprise such younger practitioners of the instrument as Matt Moran, Stefon Harris and Joe Locke. And it would surely surprise the player on these this disc, in his own way, is keeping the instrument relevant at the dawn of the 21st century.
Sadly with the passing of bassist Wilber Morris in 2002, Trio Viriditas became an historic footnote in the careers of drummer/vibraphonist Kevin Norton and reed player Alfred Harth. In their lifespan they only issued one recording (Waxwebwind@ebroadway) so this live date from the 2001 Vision Festival is particularly welcome. Although the members of this trio were from wildly divergent backgrounds, the communication was remarkable. Kevin Norton is more familiarly known as a sensitive yet powerful drummer but he’s equally adept on the vibes. Trio Viriditas, while not exclusively a vibes trio has Norton playing enough vibes to qualify for this review. And those are some of the most salient moments of this disc. The nine tracks are edited from the full performance, the first half of the program being primarily improvisations, the last part compositions. It’s mostly on the latter half where Norton plays vibes. Morris’ ballad “Melancholy” finds him playing slow, arpeggiated figures behind Harth’s beautiful, impassioned tenor statement. Elsewhere brittle fleet lines work contrapuntally with both Harth and Morris in dense three-way improvs. And the disc ends on its high note, a deep, soulful version of Horace Silver’s “Peace”. With two albums, Trio Viriditas didn’t leave much behind but what is there makes for a worthy and enduring legacy.