With tunes all by Michael Formanekexcept ‘Jade Visions’ the last of the 10 and which was written by the great Bill Evans bassist Scott LaFaro (1936-61) Even Better finds bassist composer and improviser Formanek with his Very Practical Trio: the estimable MF alongside saxophonist Tim Berne exceptionally, bluesily, raw on the thriving-on-a-riff opener ‘Suckerpunch’; and with guitar innovator Mary Halvorson.
An inspired studio affair remarkable for its concision and bite as early pre-release tracks suggested and completely borne out by the rest of the album, this Intakt presentation was recorded eight months ago in Mount Vernon, New York.
‘Still Here’ goes deeper: a swirling sax invocation that exhibits Berne in his flexible and imaginative best light as he circles around the main idea.
‘Implausible Deniability’ is offset by a tonally pure Formanek cue note; and then Berne and Halvorson shadow each other on a sort of a freebop joust: Formanek’s solo further on is superb and one that emerges organically, say in a Charlie Haden manner, and very nicely springy more to the point containing a lot of narrative vision.
‘Shattered’ opens with Halvorson who does a bit of her signature detunery as she finds a space that she wants to follow and explore. It is like surf music or ducking under water and then exhaling as you hit the air. Berne’s melody line is majestic Ornettology (quite a moment when he first begins) and is embued with a beautiful blues connotation.
‘The Shifter’ is really salty and has a jerky motion: Formanek is expert at negotiating the feeling that there are no bar lines which of course given that this is audio and not staves on the page none there are. The trio are better put maybe elastic: and where the ‘one’ is shifts and is unguessable and yep it means that there is momentum or it swings if you prefer the term... all this lest we forget without a drummer although you never miss the lack of anyone at the kit. Halvorson’s solo hereabouts is like Houdini and her contribution is a fine feat of escapology.
‘Apple and Snake’ again is about ache and Berne leads off. ‘But Will It Float’ has a cascading spread of arpeggiating resource, the scale laid out as a laminated menu and then a path smeared and passed around for the rest of the tune to be selected and then sent off to be cooked. Call this a driving road song if you like. ‘Bomb the Cactus’ has a bit of strummery at the beginning and then a pretty tune that is more anarchic than it sounds. Finally ‘Jade Visions’ has lovely deep full of feeling bass as if quietly spoken and yet urged aloud to resound and linger long. SG