This review appears in the November 2010 issue of All About Jazz-New York.
Louis Sclavis/Craig Taborn/Tom Rainey
Eldorado Trio (Clean Feed)
By David R. Adler
Is it possible for a jazz label to release too much good music? If so, Clean Feed has a wonderful problem on its hands. One can barely keep up with the flood of Clean Feed discs by such artists as Kirk Knuffke, Ivo Perelman, Kris Davis, John Hébert, Bernardo Sassetti, Nobuyasu Furuya, Julian Argüelles and Tom Rainey — and that’s just to list some of the recent trio sessions.
With Eldorado Trio, we get an intriguing companion to Rainey’s Pool School, his recording debut as a leader. While the latter featured Rainey in a studio encounter with guitarist Mary Halvorson and tenorist Ingrid Laubrock, Eldorado Trio features the drummer in a co-led concert setting with pianist Craig Taborn and multireedist Louis Sclavis. The sonorities are dark and expansive, although “Up Down Up” and “Possibilities” introduce crisp, almost swinging tempos, and “Let It Drop” opens the set with quick and frenetic staccato interplay. Sclavis limits himself to bass clarinet and soprano saxophone; only on “Lucioles” does he play both, switching to the lower horn for the final snaking legato unison with Taborn. All the pieces are Sclavis originals except for three — “To Steve Lacy,” “Summer Worlds,” the closing “Eldorado” — which are credited to the full trio.
“La Visite,” the longest, slowest and most brooding piece in the set, stands as a kind of anomaly. Its harmony is unambiguous (A minor moving to E minor); Sclavis and Taborn blend beautifully on the mournful theme and Sclavis soon builds to a torrential, almost Coltrane-esque bass clarinet flight. “Lucioles,” far more abstract harmonically, finds Sclavis (on soprano) and Taborn urging each other on during the improv, while Rainey, in the eye of the storm, remains unperturbed. The trio chemistry is distinctive, the music more melodic than Taborn and Rainey’s work with Tim Berne in Hard Cell. There’s free-jazz fire at its heart, but also an elusive element of folk lyricism.