Almost an afterthought, it seemed at the time, was their closer, a five minute song composed on the spot that lit the room up. Vibrant, edgy, full of unexpected twists and spirals and jagged happy little turns. It got the biggest round of applause of the day. Most in attendance, I'd betˇexcepting the musicians' friendsˇhad never heard anything quite like that.
Trombonist Michael Vlatkovich's vibrant new disc of improvised music, Queen Dynamo, offers the same kind of interest and excitement. I first came across Vlatkovich on trumpeter Rob Blakelee's Last Minute Gifts' (Louie, 2000), a classic, brassy quartet outing of spontaneously composed songs. On Queen Dynamo Michael Vlatkovich employs a tritet, or trio, with Jonas Tauber on bass, and Ken Ollis in the drummer's seat.
The sound here, on the freer end of the jazz spectrum, is based on the induividual players listening to and reacting to each other, involving themselves in spirited conversations. And the voices in these three-way conversations are quite assured, assertive, without ever devolving to argument or boisterous cacophonies.
Vlatkovich uses the plunger a bit, and he growls at times, but for the most part he employs a straightforward trombone sound. His bandmates share his vision: bassist Jonas Tauber brings his instrument to the front line a good deal of the time, and the guess here is that he's classically trained; his assertive bowing adds some beautiful stretched textures to the sound. Drummer Ken Ollis lays back mostlyˇvery effectivelyˇin a accompanist's mode, sometimes adding just a whispered percussive undercurrent behind the two relative blowhards (meant in the best possible sense of the word) up front. And having just written that, I pause at the keyboard to listen to the drummer add dashes of color behind some dark hues on "South for the Winter."
A first rate set of improvised sounds, very accessible to anyone who's gone there, yet still adventurous and always interesting. You never know where these guys are going next, and that's a big part of the appeal, of course.