|In mathematics, there are three basic types of triangles: scalene (no congruent sides), isosceles (two congruent sides), and equilateral (all sides congruent). If the trio of clarinetist Perry Robinson, bassist Ed Schuller, and drummer Ernst Bier became the subject of a mathematical paper, they would create a new type of triangle, one whose congruency of sides is not fixed but instead changes over time.
Recorded live in 1990 in Cologne, Germany, this performance demonstrates how jazz is often played without distinct leaders. Throughout the material—three tunes by Robinson, including “The Call,” two by Schuller, one collective improvisation, and one cover each from Sidney Bechet and Jake Holmes—the emphasis changes. Robinson, whom one would assume by default is the lead voice, gets subsumed by forceful rhythms coming from either Schuller or Bier, or both. The foundational role of the bass can be subverted by direct communication between Robinson and Bier. The drummer's participation can be dominant or distant.
This makes for an album of fascinating textures and many possibilities. On a strictly “free” record, this would be a minimum requirement. But since the trio is playing written material, the dynamic shifts from acute to right to obtuse to equiangular make every tune seem like several, a refreshing departure from the head-solos-head or leader-rhythm section formats that can suck the life out of much jazz. Add in Robinson’s mischievious personality and unique sound on the instrument—modern clarinet would be nowhere without him—and you have one math problem that both children and adults can enjoy.