Big Picture returns Myra Melford to the interlocking trio format with which the diminutive pianist made her reputation in the early 1990s. Except that Trio M is more than the earlier Melford Trio writ large; it's completed by two other forceful improvisers and composers. Like the pianist, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson are bandleaders on their own. However, the seven-track CD, which divdes the playing and writing chores, irrefutably proves that the sum is greater than its parts.
Dresser, who teaches at UC San Diego, is a multi-faceted bassist who at different points on a composition like Wilson's "Naive Art" woodenly vibrates a plucked funky blues line in tandem with the drummer's backbeat crunches with the same assurance he uses to create spiccato squeezes to match Melford's slurry triple cadences.
Colouring the proceedings with steady bumps and clatter, plus unselfconscious rim shots, bell peals and tempo modulations, Wilson is as impressive a percussionist as he is a composer. Antiphonally, the three frequently interlock tones and tempos, as distinctive keyboard vamps, drum bounces or bass strokes often adumbrating connective themes.
Soldering together triple techniques most effectively is the more-than-thirteen-and-a-half minute title track. Polytonally modulating from cerebral strummed piano lines to romantic low-frequency runs to near-frenzied cascading overtones with characteristic portamento sluices, Melford's output is complemented both by Dresser's squeaky sul ponticello and double stopped shuffle bowing plus Wilson's rhythmic shifts from irregular ruffs and flams to hammered echoing cymbal resonation.
Highly rated across the board, this is a Big Picture for everyone. -by Ken Waxman