Virtuosity can, when it's the raison d'être, be an impediment; when it's a foundation, in service of the music, it can be liberating. Storms/Nocturnes was initially the brainchild of Tim Garland but, after first convening as a subset of the sextet on the closing track to the British saxophonist/composer's Made By Walking (Stretch, 2000), ultimately evolved into a more egalitarian working trio. Both Storms/Nocturnes
(Sirocco, 2001) and Rising Tide
(Sirocco, 2003) combined the kind of rigorous material only the most skilled players could compose and navigate, with the loose spontaneity and empathetic interaction that such stunning virtuosity can afford, while remaining especially rare and precious for a trio that was always an occasional venture by necessity?spread, as its members were, across great distances, with Garland in London, pianist Geoffrey Keezer in San Diego, and vibraphonist Joe Locke a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker. It's been seven years since the trio last worked together, but you'd never know it on VIA
, an album that celebrates the many locations Storms/Nocturnes has encountered, both at home and in the near-countless locales its players have visited on the road.
does, however, represent a number of changes for the trio as well. First, while Keezer and Locke contributed material to the first two discs, this is the first album where compositional credits are split equally amongst the trio; it's also the first disc produced by Storms/Nocturnes, rather than Garland, in cooperation with John Priestley, the label head of the now-defunct Sirocco label. A lot has happened to everyone in the intervening years since Rising Tide, with plenty of the overdue accolades that had, for the most part, eluded them when they last came together. They're all much better-known and, more importantly, better respected?especially Locke, who has released a string of consistently fine records, including his other collaboration with Keezer, Live in Seattle (Origin, 2006), their powerhouse, near-fusion Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group recording. Garland, too, has released a series of adventurous recordings, culminating in Libra (Global Mix, 2009), where his ongoing work in dissolving stylistic boundaries hit a particularly successful peak.
In the liners to one of the most stunningly beautiful packages to come out in years (designed by Nadja von Massow), Keezer refers to "the perceived and over-hyped chasm between American and European Jazz," and VIA
posits that this artificial abyss is only maintained by those who feel the need to constrain music inside clearly defined boxes. The pianist's "Daly Avenue" is, at its core, a blues, and swings hard during Locke's lithe solo, Keezer's left hand a visceral walking bass line, his right, a series of peppered chords that twist the blues' basic I-IV-V form into unexpected harmonic shapes; at times clearly driving the vibraphonist, elsewhere in instantaneous response. Garland's soprano solo, bop-centric as it is, still moves in, out and around the time, as Keezer mines the lower end of his piano, moving gradually towards the repitition of a theme that bridges any and all distances.
Garland focuses largely on soprano sax, but brings his bass clarinet to the knottily composed "Ripertoli," providing a guttural foundation during Keezer's flowing solo, as the pianist deftly weaves in and around the form, leading to an equally cursive soprano solo from Garland, soaring above support from both Keezer and Locke that's an architectural marvel?a pointillistic confluence that's all the more remarkable for its effortless avoidance of harmonic or rhythmic train wrecks.