Gary Peacock Trio – Tangents (ECM)
As distinctive as bassist Gary Peacock’s fine, fluid and exploratory trio with pianist Mark Copland and brilliant, flex-minded drummer Joey Baron may be, comparisons to Keith Jarrett’s Standards trio are inevitable. After all, Peacock, with drummer Jack DeJohnette, has been part of Jarrett’s majestic piano trio for 30-plus years.
On Tangents, his second ECM trio release with Copland and Baron, Peacock steps forward as a more prominent voice in the mix. He expands his work as an intriguing composer and glides easily into his role — established long before his Jarrett days — as an avant-garde improviser. On those and other terms, he’s in very good company, given the proclivity of his trio mates to embrace airy atmospheres, as on the quietly enchanting collective improv piece “Empty Forest,” and free play, as on Baron’s “Cauldron.”
Peacock the writer comes on boldly and diversely on the first three tracks. “Contact” opens the album gracefully and logically in a bass-centered musical space. It’s followed by “December Greenwings,” a contemplative gem dating back to the late ’70s, and the swinging yet enigmatic “Tempei Tempo.”
Of course, a hallmark of the Jarrett trio was personalizing and deconstructing standards. While original material rules on Tangents, the album does include a couple of songbook entries. On Alex North’s “Spartacus,” the trio works supple magic, delicately shifting from minor to major and back. Conversely, they bring a surprisingly blasé spirit to Bill Evans’ immortal “Blue in Green,” undermining the original’s mystic character.
Deeper into the sequence, Peacock’s writing reasserts itself in varied directions, from the Ornette-ish party favor “Rumblin’” to the title track, which closes the album on a restless, yearning note. Peacock the player also shines, as heard on the bass-drums dialogue of “In and Out.” After years of supportive surrender in the Jarrett trio, Peacock once again presents his own musical voice, to invigorating and introspective ends.
— Josef Woodard