Michael Vlatkovich refers to his three-piece ensemble as a "tritet," maybe, I assume, to avoid the inevitable comparisons to all those other horn plus bass and drum trios. It's easy to see why. While that standard trio is typically used because of the openended freedom it allows, Vlatkovich's vision is more orchestral. True, the melodic material that bookend the performances tends to be little more than fanfares. But these simple melodic declarations then get symphonic treatment. Employing an arsenal of mutes the leader evokes an entire wind section while Jonas Tauber's bass saws away with the vitality of a full string section. His arco solo (he favors arco work throughout) on "The Daily Parade..." has the intricacy of a classical etude but never fails to swing. Ken Ollis on drums complements this with symphonic rumbles, rolls, splashes and crashes.
Right out of the gate on "Our costumes..." Vlatkovich sounds the charge bouncing out a bugle call-like figure. Leading into his solo, he simplifies it at first, exploring its implications with Tauber's bowing out with a counterpoint that rises to restate the opening motif and set the tone for his own solo. His improvisation evolves into a rapid, repeated figure backed by Ollis' brushes over which Vlatkovich wah-wahs away. A drum solo that starts with brushes but ends with a cadence played with sticks that marches the track on to its conclusion.
Throughout the compositions are developed not as a series of solos but as interconnected episodes within a narrative. On "South for the Winter," Vlatkovich develops the Bop theme over Ollis' agitated martial beat. When he gives way, Tauber slows the pace down, at first taking the tune in another direction which circles back to an up tempo duet with the trombonist. Ollis on drums starts by rummaging around his set before reestablishing the martial mood with timpani-like accents. The closer ,"The Blue Robes," flows from a majestic bass cadenza to a brief trombone-percussion conversation to trombone flaying away over a darting bass line. As usual, Vlatkovich allows plenty of space to let his accompanists shine through. Tauber matches the virtuosity of his opening arco work with pizzicato gymnastics. Ollis then systematically sounds out various components of his set. His summoning of his percussive resources is similar to the way Vlatkovich makes use of the resources of his "tritet" throughout this striking recital.
© Cadence Magazine 2005
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