Trio Viriditas – Live at Vision Festival VI (CF 115)
Trio Viriditas came together in 2000 when German multi-instrumentalist Alfred Harth contacted bassist Wilber Morris to do some recordings during a visit to New York and asked Morris to choose a drummer. Morris chose Kevin Norton and the group’s first studio meeting was chronicled on one of the first Clean Feed recordings, waxwebwind@ebroadway, released in 2001. Future plans for the group ended with Morris’s death in 2002. This 2001 recording comes as a reminder that Trio Viriditas was a special group, both for its players’ individual strengths and their shared attitudes. They had a remarkably open, collective attitude to structure, working with many variants and both with and without predetermined material. Among the pieces here there are collective improvisations, compositions by each band member, and even a modern jazz standard. There are frequent shifts in texture as well: Harth plays regular and bass clarinets as well as his tenor saxophone and further employs a pocket trumpet, whether open or muted, usually for brief punctuations; Norton plays vibraphone as extensively as drums and bells.
Collective improvisations initially predominate, a form to which the three bring an instinctive elegance, often favouring medium tempos that highlight a shared talent for spontaneous melody. The elegiac “Hiranyagarbha” is highlighted by Morris’s singing bass glissandi and Harth’s clarinet set against vibraphone tremolos, while bass and drums set up a pulsing force field on “A wind reads ruts…” Among the compositions, Morris’s “Melancholy” stands out, a ballad akin to a spiritual that brings out the inherent lyricism of the composer’s bass and Norton’s vibraphone along with Harth’s broad-stroke appropriation of the Albert Ayler ballad style, breathy warmth interrupted by sudden guttural or squealed interjections. The same “trio” (with Harth tenor, Norton vibes) finds the saxophonist generally more restrained on his own “Braggadocio,” a bluesy tune where Harth’s inside-out playing sometimes resembles the late George Adams in Harth’s genuine ability to swing and groove in an almost Arnett Cobb vein while freely wandering in and out of manic interjections and register extremes. There’s a Monk-like motion to “Fuer die Katz’s deli (ght)+Starbucks,” and the final “Peace” (Horace Silver’s) is simply gorgeous, bass, tenor and vibes (and cymbals) all dovetailing around the theme in an effusion of collective lyricism.
This is a late commemoration of a very fine band. It deserves to be widely heard.