Free Jazz review by Paul Acquaro

CF 262Paradoxical Frog – Union (CF 262)
Not so long ago at the MOMA in NYC there was a featured exhibition called “Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on “Ode to Joy” for a Prepared Piano.” It was in a large open space of the museum, with stark white walls and high ceilings. In the middle of this space, there was a piano with a hole cut out of it just right for a human. At certain intervals a person would indeed emerge from inside the piano, reach forward and begin playing the keyboard while moving through the gallery.

When I first put on Paradoxical Frog’s Union, this is pretty much what I imagined was happening. From a panoply of tones that you have to listen hard to attribute to their source, the playing begins from within the instruments, slowly reaching out and interacting with the space it’s in.

The paradoxical frog, in fauna terms is an amphibian from South America, and in musical terms it is Kris Davis on piano, Ingrid Laubrock on tenor sax and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Each brings a wonderful sense of tone, technical skills and compositions to the ensemble and this, their second release, is just fantastic. From the early formative sounds to the song snippets that emerge and dispel in their own time and space, the trio excels at creating music that is fresh and exciting while being warm and inviting — if not also a bit challenging. Slower songs like ‘Second Strike’, a dark hued free-form melody stretching over washes of percussion and abstract comping contrasts beautifully with more upbeat and determined tunes like ‘Union’. The combination of tempos and touch on ‘Masterisk’ makes for an exciting listen too.

Never unduly harsh, never overtly obviously, the songs unfold in their own lovely ways. The tones of Laubrock’s sax, the splash of Sorey’s cymbals and Davis’ original and melodic playing come together so nicely here.

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