Gary Peacock Trio: Tangents

This top-of-the-line piano trio plays with an intense beauty that is, perhaps, not often enough interrupted by joy.

Gary Peacock Trio


Label: ECM
US Release Date: 2017-09-08
UK Release Date: 2016-09-08

Gary Peacock is now 82 years old, and he is playing with wisdom, experience, and a certain timelessness on his side. After his 30 years being featured as the bassist in Keith Jarrett’s “Standards Trio” with Jack DeJohnette, it became easy to forget that Peacock was never much of a jazz “standards” guy. His two most formative gigs would seem to have been his time with Albert Ayler and with Paul Bley in the 1960s. (He also played with Bill Evans and subbed the bass chair in the Miles Davis Quintet.) He started his musical life as young pianist, then moved to drums, then found the bass. Today, after 60-plus years on the scene, his music has gravitas but also a lightness.

Tangents is his second consecutive trio recording with pianist Marc Copland and drummer Joey Baron. Jarrett’s trio isn’t happening anymore, and this very different group is Peacock’s mainstay. Copland does not dominate the piano trio format they way Jarrett does, leaving Peacock more room to play melodies and to equalize the harmonic burdens. Baron, who I once thought of as a snapping, somewhat aggressive drummer, is all tact and atmosphere in this band, resulting in a balance that is rare in a trio.

Also balanced is the relative feeling of the compositions here. Three tracks are freely improvised or are based on such a small compositional nugget that they are exercises in association and motivic development. Another group are originals by Peacock or Copland that present short but pungent themes to inspire the music. Finally, two standards are presented.

There are two compositional sketches by Baron — open-ended tone poems. “In and Out” begins with a drum solo that invites Peacock in for some playful dialog. “Cauldron” is a trio affair built on a puckish motif, but both are under three minutes. “Empty Forest”, the purely spontaneous track, is an exercise in restraint that finds each musician pulling back and listening. It arcs over seven minutes, with heaping doses of silence between notes, Baron coloring on cymbals or tapping on toms, a conversation between bass and piano that is part call and response, part counterpoint.

The tunes composed by Peacock are the bulk of the music, however. “Rumblin’” is a bit of an outlier: a down-home lick that sounds like a country-fried blues. Rather than doling out solos the traditional way, the trio allows ideas to emerge from the pulse in waves — Peacock rises up for a thought, then Copland takes over for a bit, but Peacock returns such that Baron gets to sit up on the bell of his cymbal and speak as well. The theme doesn’t return, but the groove takes you out.

Most of Peacock’s songs are more contemplative and beautiful, but they can wear thin as a result of some apparent sameness. “December Greenwings” has a gentle, start-stop theme that spins into improvisation that resembles embroidery. “Tempei Tempo” develops into a walking groove after playing a long bass intro and the introduction of a theme with a tumbling downward angle and a flirtation with a funk pedal tone. “Contact” works a very gradual up-ramp until it gets to a similar groove feeling, with Peacock and Copland playing the same funky blues lick, the tune’s real hook. Then, there is the title track. It begins (again) with a bass solo. The trio ramps up slowly (again) in intriguing, poetic ways. Eventually, the band finds its way (again) to a pedal tone moment in which a pulse takes over. Does Tangents -- despite so much great playing -- feel monotonous?

Copland’s contribution, “Talkin' Blues”, is a sly, modal piece that moves around with a blues feeling but not within a standard blues harmonic structure. To me, it feels like a relief because it provides a longer structure -- just more “song”, I guess -- for the trio to craft, play with, transform. The same can be said for the two standards here. “Blue in Green”, the classic Miles Davis/Bill Evans theme from Kind of Blue gets it all right: the moodiness but also the long form of a simple melody. Peacock solos with a playful bounce that be carries into his accompaniment of Copland, such that you can listen to either with pleasure. “Spartacus” is the famous Alex North theme from the 1960 film, another minor mood that is right in the trio’s wheelhouse.

The difference with “Spartacus” is that the composition contains incredible rays of harmonic sunshine that give your ears some lift. Peacock’s trio, too often for me, lapses into a gorgeous seriousness. It’s a great band, but Tangents simple contains too few of these... tangents from the main. On a rainy, introspective day this collection is either exactly what you need to reinforce your mood to perhaps too much of a shimmering thing.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.