A recording released in Europe by Blue Regard called ROUND THE BEND features the Rob Brown Trio. Rob Brown plays alto sax, William Parker plays bass and Warren Smith plays drums.
To describe this trio, the first word that comes to mind is silken. The second is forward. And in this silken forwardness is produced an array of sounds that does not switch levels of emotion or sound range too often. But that is to the recording’s credit. Such limitations create parameters for listening that do not push so much that the content rocks out of balance.
The alto rests on a pedestal in terms of carrying the trio, but not too far above the bass and the drums, because they are a fervent support mechanism for the variations of tones that Brown unfolds. With a slight vibrato that personalizes the notes, Brown succeeds in gliding through some elegant, soft-spoken & sensual songs, which are surprisingly on this side of liberal, one of which is composed by Billy Strayhorn. The brashest conglomerates of phrasing Brown broaches are at a pace that require precise fingering of arpeggios. He finds harsh high and low split tones that shake the momentum, steadfastly maintained by Parker and Smith. In other words, Brown can take flight without being strapped by a seat belt because he knows that his sense of rhythmic abstraction is not going to fail him.
There is something that is quite delightful about the texture that predominates the recording. I think that it has to do with the delicacy that is inherent in the trio’s constitution. All three players are limitless within their characterization of performance. Smith does not spare any succinctness in his drumming. His sound is spry, quick, mutliplicitous, varying. He wields his sticks and mallets poetically and is particularly attentive to the timbre of the moment in the alto. Smith never overtakes the music; he is totally active within it whether or not he spins abstractions or is a noticeable time-keeper. The same is true of Parker. The ummistakable spring of the strings on his bass. when held together & plucked, stretched & plucked or damped & plucked, decorate the image of the alto’s tunes . And his manner of bowing demonstrates his attention to timbre by the pressure which Parker chooses to stroke the strings. Parker always satisifies his uplifting role in the group--- never too much or too little of how he needs to participate.
The solid thematic content in this recording bears a hint of European structural formalism which keeps the music’s tonality tempered and pleasurable; yet, even in the most expressively loose music where split tones rise and fall out of the alto, where the cymbals are swished, and where the bass strings are clipped along, all the instruments reinforce each other as irreplaceable parts in the whole.