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The Big Takeover Issue #94
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Joëlle Léandre/Craig Taborn/Mat Maneri - hEARoes (RogueArt)

28 June 2023

It’s an obvious thing to say at this point, but not all free jazz is pedal-to-the-medal aggression or slightly controlled chaos. Some of it is actually less musclebound, more whimsical, and more experimental. In the case of the trio comprised of bassist Joëlle Léandre, pianist Craig Taborn, and violist Mat Maneri, it’s even playful. On hEARoes, the threesome eschews firepower (for the most part) for chamber music, as if they’re trying to make up new works for small classical ensembles. That doesn’t mean there’s not some blues here and there – the fulcrum of the second track “E” (yes, all the pieces are named after the letters in the album’s title) retains an earthy swing, for example. But most of the songs take classical dynamics and turn them toward jazz improvisation, giving the droning “R” and the roiling “e” the feel of an avant-garde string ensemble working out its arrangements in real time. More concerned with creation than expression, hEARoes practically embodies the free jazz synonym “spontaneous composition.”