By J.D. Considine | Published April 2021
Whereas Sun Ra was fond of saying, “Space is the place,” for the members of Trio Tapestry—saxophonist Joe Lovano, pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi—a more appropriate mantra might be, “Space is the thing.” Garden Of Expression, the trio’s sophomore effort, has all kinds of space: Space between notes, space to stretch out and space for reflection. Even the audio itself revels in spaciousness, thanks to the reverberant acoustics of the Auditorio Stella Molo RSI in Lugano, Switzerland, where even whispered notes are unexpectedly resonant.
A good bit of the album’s airiness can be ascribed to Lovano’s writing. Lean and suggestive, the tunes here tend toward leisurely, well-spaced shards of song, melodic patterns that hang in the air like questions. “Chapel Song,” which opens the album, starts with the saxophonist intoning a simple, prayerful melody, his sound light and breathy, his phrasing strongly vocalized. Crispell’s piano fills in the space between phrases with quietly chiming chords, not so much playing the changes as teaching the listener how to hear the harmony implied in Lovano’s melody. Meanwhile, Castaldi’s drumming—cymbal playing, mostly, with splashes of brushwork and the odd thump of bass drum or tom—is less about keeping time than adding color, as if the accents marked by the stick’s impact were no more significant than the space filled by a cymbal’s sizzle or ring.
Clearly, this is a listening band, with the choices each player makes determined, in part, by what others are playing. During Lovano’s solo on “West Of The Moon,” there’s a marvelous dynamic between his tenor and Crispell’s piano where his sustained, legato phrases provoke roiling, Ravelian arpeggios, while his busier patterns are met with long chords, as if each knew exactly what the other was about to do. Then there’s the wonderfully pacific “The Sacred Chant,” a meditation that weaves the three voices together so perfectly that the music sounds less like improvisation than musical revelation, with each player achieving enlightenment through the others.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Garden Of Expression is the emotional range these three pull from this music. From the spare, prayerful asceticism of “Zen Like” to the sprightly post-bop interplay of “Dream On That” and the epic sweep of the title tune, Trio Tapestry suggests a universe of possibilities within its deeply spacious sound.
Garden Of Expression: Chapel Song; Night Creatures; West Of The Moon; Garden Of Expression; Treasured Moments; The Sacred Chant; Dream On That; Zen Like. (48:14)
Personnel: Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, tarogato, gongs; Marilyn Crispell, piano; Carmen Castaldi, drums.