The Guest House
No doubt, the collective nature of Trio M contributes to the satisfying diversity of material on The Guest House. Pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson are clearly like-minded about ensemble interplay and the tension between astute writing and collective improvisation. Each shows a love for standard song form, no matter how far astray the improvisations run.
Among Wilson’s offerings are the funny, lilting “Don Knotts” (a tribute to the late comedian); the folklike, exuberant “Al” (for Albert Ayler), with its bugle-call theme; and the lovely lullaby “Hope (For the Cause).” Melford’s title tune is built on a funk ostinato, while her “Even Birds Have Homes (To Return To),” after some dissonant wandering, becomes a floating waltz, with Dresser’s bow taking the lead on the melody. Dresser’s “Ekoneni” draws on a Zimbabwean folkdance for its theme. And his ballad “Kind of Nine” fits Melford’s hands and sensibilities as if she had composed it herself.
But all the tunes are just starting points, templates for broader group interaction. That waltz soon takes off into skittering bowed notes and a rubato piano reverie. And what would a tribute to Ayler be without muscular foreground statements from all three players? The most expansive pieces are Dresser’s. His “Tele Mojo” (at 12 minutes, the longest track on the album) begins with spidery bowed figures and atmospheric clinks and tinkles, before cohering in a strong chordal melody. The piece builds with scattered chord clusters and free rhythms then gradually evaporates, as mist. The players stick together at every turn. So there’s unity in diversity — in art, as in life.
— Jon Garelick