Trombonist lead trios aren't exactly commonplace but then again Michael Vlatkovich isn't your average trombonist. He squeaks, soars, and sears and tears sonic pieces of paper much like a saxophonist. More than once my lazy ears have wondered if a saxophone was in fact what Vlatkovich was playing bur further studies have long revealed that the extended physical length and negotiation that goes along with the trombone is also part of his sound. He has added greatly to sessions lead by Rob Blakeslee and Vinny Golia and has begun to build a reputation as a fine leader and composer. Quite simply, and with all due respect to players like Jed Bishop, Joe Fiedler, Masahiko Kono, Steve Swell, and even my all time favorite Roswell Rudd, Vlatkovich is the finest trombonist improvising today.
No Zee Two Es finds Vlatkovich in the company of his regular associates drummer Chris Garcia and bassist Anders Swanson in sessions from January 8 and July 10 of 1995. The eight tracks and over 60 minutes of music varies between swing and stammer and yet do not sacrifice much in the way of instrumental complexity. Much of the disc consists of a breezy trombone eeking out the blues while a rhythm succeeds in finding a way to play beneath the surface. Swanson, in particular breaks out with some great spacey lyrical playing on cuts like "chobraty" and "merle and nell."
While this music isn't exactly "out there," it is far from the "mainstream." There isn't a "blow out" or antagonistic section on this disc and yet all of the cuts have a smidgen of unpredictability that makes them challenging. "always connection," for instance, opens with a bright solo by Vlatkovich and continues on a path that would likely lull more adventurous to sleep if it wasn't for the looseness of Garcia and Swanson. Vlatkovich gets credit for writing all of the pieces though it remains unclear how much composition was involved in producing the music. I can imagine how these sounds came about through loose scores but then again I could see similar sounds coming from fully improvised date.
In the end, it doesn't matter as this music shines in or outside of any context. Fans of Jemeel Moondoc and other neo-free-boppers, such as the previously mentioned Rob Blakeslee, are sure to enjoy No Zee Two Es as is just about anybody with an ear for great playing and improvisation.