(audio-b ABCD 5012)
Acoustic Triangle consists of bassist Malcolm Creese, John Horler on piano and Tim Garland on reeds. Creese is the boss of audio-b, a label that prides itself on producing recordings with the very finest sound quality. For this CD, the trio were recorded live in St. George's Bristol, the former church that is now a concert hall. Using state-of-the-art equipment and engineers from Sony International's European R & D Division, the excellent natural sound of the space was captured. So, the sound is first rate. (In my view, that does not matter a jot if the music is no good. A good recording cannot compensate for bad music. And good music can often shine through a very poor recording. However, these observations are not relevant in this case, for the music is as good as the sound quality.)
Each member of this trio is a master craftsman. Garland is probably the best known, especially since he became Chick Corea's first choice tenor saxophonist in his Origin band. For years prior to that, fans of the jazz-folk band Lammas had known and loved Garland's lilting, lyrical sound. In his time with Corea (he has now played over 150 concerts with him), Garland has blossomed further; his tone, phrasing and improvisatory skills are now authoritative and exhilarating. His playing is the dominant sound here. For an example, look no further than Ralph Towner's "The Glide", on which he is simply exquisite. Horler has an exquisite pedigree, including being a mainstay of the Cleo Laine-John Dankworth band for nearly two decades. His playing exudes taste and restraint, whether as accompanist or soloist. Creese is an undemonstrative bassist, but has a beautiful sound and a fine sense of melody.
The opening three pieces are Garland's (instrumental) arrangements of three poems by Ravel (originally for piano and soprano voice, dedicated to Igor Stravinsky, Florent Schmitt and Erik Satie). They provide a mellow, low-key opening that sets the tone of the album. After them, we are into more familiar jazz territory, including "Sly Eyes (Tango)" by Kenny Wheeler, four originals by Horler and three by Garland. In the context of the album, it is no surprise to discover that both Garland's "Bill's Way" and Horler's "Evansong" are inspired by the same source (go on, guess). The trio describe their music as "melodic modern jazz with European classical influences", a phrase that describes Evans as well as this trio. The entire album shares Evans' sense of jazz based on melody and understatement. This is a beautiful, easy-on-the-ear album that will repay repeated listening over many years.