Gary Peacock Trio
(2017, ECM Records)
It’s sheer perversity on my part to hear the opening notes to “Holding Back the Years,” the wan mega-hit by generic ’80s blue-eyed soul band Simply Red in Gary Peacock’s rich-toned solo bass overture on Tangents’ first track, “Contact,” but I’ll run with it. The Woodstock-based Peacock, now in his own, markedly different 80s, holds nothing back on this masterful recording, his 13th as a leader—which also means not holding onto any conventional sense of musical time or space. These strikingly quiescent, discrete, and discreet exchanges between the bassist and his cohorts, pianist Marc Copland and drummer Joey Baron, display a koan-like economy rare in jazz.
It’s a winding line that would encompass all the musicians and sensibilities—including, briefly: Miles Davis, Ravi Shankar, Bill Evans, Albert Ayler, and Keith Jarrett, among countless others—with whom Peacock has performed during his storied career, and an appositely oblique quality suffuses Tangents. Copland demonstrates his sonorous touch and inviting swing on the Evans favorites “Spartacus” and “Blue in Green.” Yet he sounds even more persuasive on other tracks, developing sudden, sustained bell-like, Morton Feldman-esque abstractions bathed in silence. Similarly, one-time Downtown firebrand Baron exhibits patience and delicacy in his spare yet voluptuously full tom and cymbal statements that initiate the trio improvisation “Empty Forest.” Peacock magisterially leads by example throughout, commanding yet liberated. Tangents lives up to its title while being as essential—and mysterious—as night and day.