Freedom of Assembly is tri-generational, bass, drums, and piano trio. Bassist George Donchev is the youngest at 32 and has played with the likes of Bob Gullotti and John Lockwood, and worked to create a hybrid between jazz and the folk music of his native Bulgaria. 45 year old pianist Bert Seager is the best known of the musicians having won claim for his solo projects while drummer Nat Mugavero, 63, has backed Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Stitt, and Joe Williams amongst others.
This disc finds Mugavero and his band mates making music that would not necessarily flow from his resume. All of the disc's 11 tracks, save for two standards, are the product of collective improvisation by the trio and were not composed beforehand. Many listeners associate collective improvisation with dissonance but this disc shows that the two need not go hand in hand. There is light and soft quality to much of the material here. Most of the pieces would not sound out of place in mainstream jazz settings save for the jagged edges and uncertain directions that collective improvisations usually take. Entertaining, if conventional, piano parts dominate tunes like "Preamble." Seager's playing draws upon several generations of pianists to create a sound that is as much about exploring sound as it is about propelling the music along. Donchev has a tendency to stay out of the way but does some fine soloing whenever the situation arises. "Bottom's Up" is the best example of this as it features a haunting bass solo. It is Mugavero, however, who steals the show. His playing is relatively quiet but it has an undeniable intensity to it. The drum parts on "Free Lunch" and Chaos Theory" are particularly good.
The main problem with the group's self-titled disc is that too many of the tracks lack follow-through. The group rarely reaches satisfying conclusions and this winds up detracting from the overall stature of the music. Still, Mugavero's playing is enough to warrant a recommendation for this disc.