“…listener can sense they are in the presence of greatness.”
Poring over vibraphonist Mike Mainieri’s musical resume and the people that he’s either collaborated or guested with over the past fifty years certainly reads like a who’s who of both early and contemporary jazz. In 50’s and 60’s the Bronx born musician had the dubious honor of sharing the stage with some truly legendary jazz, heavyweights such as Buddy Rich, Billie Holliday, Dizzy Gillespie and Wes Montgomery. By the time he was just twenty years old he was already winning awards from Downbeat magazine. In the 70’s Mainieri formed L’Image and then the jazz / fusion outfit Steps Ahead with Michael Brecker, Eddie Gomez, Steve Gadd and Don Grolnick. Together they’ve released a dozen albums since their formation in 1979/80. In addition Mainieri has even managed to snag a few rock sessions over the years as well, putting in guest appearances on albums by Paul Simon, Billy Joel and Dire Straits.
Now in his early 70’s Mainieri keeps moving forward and thankfully he hasn’t shown any signs that the aging process is catching up with him. He’s certainly in fine form on this exhilarating new live album entitled Trinary Motion, recorded with Netherlands based guitarist Marnix Busstra, along with bassist Eric van der Westen and Pieter Bast who round out the quartet. This sterling sounding double release recorded over the course of three European dates at the end of 2008 features both material from their first collaborative effort Twelve Pieces, released that same year, as well a few new compositions.
Although the total running time hovers around the two hour mark, there are just thirteen songs, so the listener can expect a hefty amount of extended improvisations from both musicians. With van der Westen and Bast (fellow Dutchmen like Busstra) offering the support of a solid, but also at times, experimental and playful rhythm section, Busstra and Mainieri are able to throw caution to the wind with their compelling and extensive flights of fancy.
When they bring the tempo down and opt for a mellower groove on “Three Years, Three Months, Three Weeks, Three Days” and dish out some absolutely transcendent melodies on “The Secret Lake” the inherent spiritual qualities of the music comes pouring forth and the listener can sense they are in the presence of greatness. There’s just such a wonderful aura of cohesiveness permeating throughout this disc. Take for example the track “Kannada”, which slowly unfurls at its own deliberate pace as Busstra’s fluid solos on the acoustic guitar are underpinned by Mainieri’s, light and colorful textures. When the guitar eventually drops out and the time comes for Mainieri to rise to the fore, the transition is absolutely seamless.
Both of these guys are such wonderfully lyrical players that I often found myself hypnotized by the sheer abundance of buoyant sounding melodies that accompany their magnificently arranged unison guitar and vibe lines. There’s definitely a sense of the exotic as well as “Lost In Little Spain” not only opens with the droning sounds of Busstra’s bouzouki, but it also features a superb double bass solo by van der Westen in which he utilizes both a bowed approach and some deft finger plucking as well.
Trinary Motion contains a certain kind of magic that will reveal subtle nuances with each new listen. It also reminded me of the infinite possibilities that can occur when four unique and extremely talented musicians of this caliber get together and create within the moment. Highly recommended!