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Flow Trio - Set Theory, Live at the Stone

Stuart Kremsky, Cadence Magazine

The latest releases by the invaluable Ayler Record label are part of their Guerilla Series, limited editions of just 400 copies, housed in mini single-disc jewel cases. The package might be minimalist, but the albums are full-length with no relaxation of production standards.

They bill themselves as the Flow Trio, an especially apt moniker for saxophonist Louie Belogenis, bassist Morris, and drummer Downs. Set Theory, Live at the Stone is their second release for Ayler and like their first was recorded on a downtown New York bandstand. For a fire-breather like Belogenis, who’s established his rep in groups led by the likes of Sunny Murray, John Zorn, and Rashied Ali, the long opening track is pretty mellow. The relatively leisurely “Set Theory” acts as a convening of individual voices and a chance to feel out the room. Things turn a bit headier and tightly focused on “InfinTrinity.” Belogenis alternates deep honks with excursions into the upper ranges of his tenor in an elegiac-sounding rising and falling melody. Morris wields his bow, and while his pizzicato playing doesn’t seem to me to resemble his guitar work, his arco work, mysterious and unpredictable, does. Downs, aggressive in his accompaniment to the opening trio section, is more restrained when it comes time to solo. Following strategies similar to those employed on the opener, with short solo statements and plenty of space in the ensemble sound, “InfinTrinity” has a general air of subdued melancholy and ends with some fervent blowing by Belogenis. Very often, it seems, free improvisation gigs wind down, and the performances get shorter and shorter, distilling the evening’s proceedings into more concentrated form. That’s certainly the case here, with “Theory” coming in at nearly 30 minutes, “InfinTrinity” at nearly 18 minutes, and “The End of Certainty” closing the set at just over seven minutes. Belogenis picks up his soprano for the first time, and the elegiac tone of the evening continues, confirmed by his first mournful notes. He gets a clearer sound on the smaller horn than on the tenor, with less burr and breath. The pace, quite slow at first, picks up for Belogenis’ first brief solo statement. After a short spot for a busy Morris, the saxophonist reenters with some mutated blues lines, soaring to the limits of the soprano without breaking up. And then it’s over.