Allium is the second recording by this chamber trio, a follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2018 release Ithra. On that record they made a singularly powerful statement delving into non-soloistic group interaction and compositional development in a free-improvised context. Allium ventures even further down that fertile path.
In fact it’s frankly difficult to believe these pieces weren’t pre-composed and rehearsed at length. The beginnings, endings, development, and structure of each one demonstrates total clarity, sense of purpose, and assurance. There’s never a moment when someone rushes in head-first, only to find themselves backpedaling to compensate for a tactical error. Instead we hear thoughtful and deliberate actions that always drive the narrative exposition forward. Even when a member occasionally steps to the fore with a more soloistic approach, it’s only used as a means for further development of the whole. And each of these short pieces is a terrain complete unto itself from one to the next - desert, rainforest, tundra, mountaintop.
This achievement isn’t one that many groups could pull off. Most are limited by a set of dogma associated with the particular genre they work in. Jazz, improvised music, contemporary classical, etc., each of which has its own working methodologies and precepts. But these three musicians are ones who have deeply considered and successfully straddled those boundaries in their decades of work; each one as noted bandleaders, as well as in their collaborations with some of the most important thinkers in creative music over the last half-century. Those decades of elbow-deep trial and error diving into a myriad of creative strategies is what allows these three to come together in such a unique example of spontaneous compositional collaboration.
The end result of this working process is jaw-dropping, since the concentration it demands makes every moment sing with tension. Each piece on Allium holds the visceral excitement of an impending implosion, as Rempis, Reid, and Abrams race towards an as-yet-unknown finish line while trying to avoid any devastating stumbles along the way. They can never be sure from one piece to the next if a particular structure might collapse under its own weight, or trail off into irrelevance. And yet they stick that landing each time, piling up one small miracle after another, and creating a sonic monument to non-hierarchical human collaboration. This artistic statement carries meaning much greater than just the sounds you hear, delving deep into the ethical, political, spiritual, and philosophical underpinnings of their unique process.