This superb New York chamber trio deftly applies the instrumentation of the classic jazz piano trio to dazzling new contemporary writing. Pianist Karl Larson, percussionist Matthew Evans, and bassist Pat Swoboda achieved an early apotheosis in 2018 with American Dream, concert-length commission from the Brooklyn composer Scott Wollschleger, which according Bandcamp Daily, “toggles between Morton Feldman-esque contemplation and pointedly fractured, multi-planar collisions to indicate both the hope and deep disappointments of contemporary America.”
Written in 2017, the work for piano, double bass, and vibraphone cycles through incrementally transforming harmony and melody—starting one place, and ending up another without drawing attention to the journey. The piece only gained resonance within the increased division and disenfranchisement in the US, its meditative, often fraught dualities reflecting disparate visions of the title concept—whether utter disenchantment or guarded vitality. Gas Station Canon Song and We See Things adroitly bookend that work, with fractured elements of each obliquely contained within American Dream.
This evening’s program opens with Trio, a commissioned work by Katherine Balch—currently composer-in-residence with the California Symphony—which the trio premiered at Pioneer Works in April of 2019.