Belgian bassist Piet Verbist has featured saxophonists on each of his previous Origin Records albums—bass, drums and a horn or two seems to be his way of working. With Secret Exit To Another Dimension, his fifth Origin outing, he pares things down to the trio format, creating a distinctive guitar/bass/drums sound that has a strikingly modern feel.
It has become cliche to say—especially when speaking of trio of bass and drums with a piano or guitar—that the group displays an equality of input, as a trio of equals. And that is often overstated. It is commonly the chording instrument that has the major voice. It is not overstated with Verbist's Secret Exit to Another Dimension. Each voice—Verbist's muscular bass, Lionel Beuvens' quirky drum work, and Hendrik Braeckman's sometimes crisp, sometimes ringing and often off-kilter guitar sound—come together as a synchronized tussle. Everybody is assertive, pushing forward with their sound. They bump shoulders and elbows yet meld into a single unit that doesn't sound like any other guitar trio out there.
The compositions are mostly originals, from the pens of all three players, with Charlie Parker's "Cheryl" and Thelonious Monk's "Pannonica" acting as touchstones to the tradition. This set of strong compositions and the originality of trio expression makes for a cohesive start-to-finish mood, almost like a suite. Like Monk's music, lots of angles are encountered, and on "Secret Exit," the group does indeed make its egress into that other dimension, riding Braeckman's guitar that seems to have taken the electrical aspect of his axe to the next level.
The trio closes with Verbist's "Minikan Milan," a hopeful, folksy soundscape to a day of wide open horizons.