The saxophone-bass-drums trio is the terra incognita of the improvisatory world, a rugged upland terrain where harmony attenuates like thinning air and there’s nowhere to hide, for musicians and listeners alike. But austere as the chordless format may be, when the musicians are honest and brave it can also be the most rewarding of improvisatory experiences for the listener.
That is certainly true of this excellent debut from the cross-Border RBG Trio. The Belfast-based saxophonist Meilana Gillard is an internationalist – born in London, raised in Ohio, schooled in New York and, for the past decade, based in Ireland – and her sound embraces both the guts and invention of the classic US saxophone tradition and the eclecticism and genre-blindness of the European jazz sensibility.
Match her with the peerless Dublin rhythm section of Dave Redmond on bass, and Kevin Brady on drums, and you have a powerful trio capable of navigating these rugged uplands of melody and rhythm with agility and purpose.
The set’s 12 originals – all three contribute compositions – were taken fresh into the studio, without the usual blooding of a tour, so there is a rawness and vitality to the playing, the three musicians feeling their way into the music, searching for new melodies, listening intently to each other, avoiding cliche, flying without a net in the best traditions of the saxophone trio.