Flow Trio - Set Theory, Live at the Stone

Ken Waxman, JazzWord

Reports of Free Jazz`s death have been greatly exaggerated. Despite the derision, rejection and outright venom that has been directed at it since that musical expression came to the fore in the early 1960s, committed improvisers continue to discover nuances for self-expression unhampered by themes, bar lines or so-called proper instrumental techniques

Consider this disc by the all-American Flow Trio of saxophonist Louie Belogonis, bassist Joe Morris and drummer Charles Downs. Like the best players in every idiom, the ensemble tackles the challenge of Free Jazz with novel variations on the now venerable sounds.

Belogonis, whose past playing partners have included drummer Rashid Ali and trumpeter Roy Campbell, moves through the three selections on Set Theory with the confidence of someone who have found his milieu. Whether it’s puffing out swathes of dissected and disconnected slurs from his soprano saxophone or expanding flattement from his tenor saxophone, his exposition is welcoming enough to encompass others’ equally distinct contributions. Morris, who recently has become a solid bass player as well as a guitarist, varies his accompaniment among walking lines and thumping arpeggios. Meanwhile Downs, formerly known as Rashid Bakr, proves with his echoing cymbal breaks, and double-timed, ratamacues and pumps why he has been demand in bands such as Other Dimensions in Music and pianist Cecil Taylor’s units. Consisting of three live selections which in parts are as moderato and lyrical as they are violent and emotional, the CD demonstrates how perfect symmetry can enliven performances that from the beginning make no compromises.

A defined Jazz variant like Dixieland or Hard Bop, Free Jazz now has a history and variety of interpreters. If your preference is for Free Jazz straight up, then you’ll probably be drawn to Set Theory.