Michael Formanek Drome Trio

Were We Where We Were
(Circular File)

“Tattarrattat,” the first title on Were We Where We Were, comes from James Joyce’s Ulysses, and is deemed by the Oxford English Dictionary to be the language’s longest palindrome. The music of “Tattarrattat” is also a palindrome, written so that it could be played backwards, forwards or both simultaneously. Although with a playing time of 27 minutes, this palindrome is considerably longer than Joyce’s.

Bassist Michael Formanek is hardly the first composer to explore the palindrome as a compositional form (Bach’s “Crab Canon,” from his Musical Offering, is an 18th century example), but he’s undoubtedly the first jazz musician to have built a band around the concept: The Drome Trio, with reedman Chet Doxas and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza.

In other hands, jazz based on melodic palindromes could become a dry and academic affair, but for these guys it’s more like fun and games. After an intro in which Doxas’ soprano offers smeared glissandos that turn his notes into Silly Putty, the trio offers the main theme in the form of a canon. But even though Doxas and Formanek continue to reference that material in their playing, the improvisation is more conversational than structural. They also have a bit of rhythmic fun. “Tattarrattat” rambles from its opening rubato to a groove after Formanek’s bass solo that could almost be described as funky, while “Never Odd Or Even” has Doxas and Formanek offering the melody in unison, so that Sperrazza’s skittering cymbal work seems less like timekeeping than a kind of rhythmic counterpoint.

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