It was shortly after I bathed in the unrelenting intensity of Albert Ayler’s landmark Spiritual Unity that the new release by another free jazz trio came my way. Ricardo Tejero (saxophone), Marco Serrato (bass) and Borja Díaz (drums) are from a different time and the London-based Spaniards are also of a different place, but their music, portrayed on the just-released Sputnik Trio (Raw Tonk Records) is also spiritual and also unified.
The three rip through thirteen tunes in forty-four minutes time, and the succinctness is refreshing; their plots are compacted and there’s little time for casting about trying to define a song’s contours. By no means does this make it a non-stop series of explosions like a string of firecrackers going off, a la John Zorn’s Spy vs. Spy, there are plenty of spatial, barren soundscapes carved out in three minutes or less, such as Serrato’s jittery bass rattles on “Ursa Major,” Tejero’s sharply clipped notes set against Díaz’s random beats during “Copra” or Díaz’s own, probing solo performance on drums that uses silence as an extra instrument (“Saturna”).
Even within the short running time format, they are more than capable of turning on a dime; “Bois Cailman” has this sense of foreboding that follows through with a wailing explosion with less than thirty seconds left. “Rag From Mars” erupts from the start, and Tejero’s rangy, passionate saxophone is a comfortably close cousin to the style of Ivo Perelman. The thunderous “Dire Threat,” the only song the runs longer than four minutes, is group improv at its best; everyone is inside everyone else’s head. The telepathy continues in a more controlled fashion during “Le Garage Hermétique,” featuring Serrato’s sawing skills, which reach impossibly low notes on “La Máquina Preñada.” The album ends as stormy as it starts: “Capricorn” finds Tejero playing pretty, extended notes, seemingly oblivious to the convulsions happening right under his nose with Serrato’s furious bowing and Díaz’s unrestrained drumming.
Free-form jazz doesn’t need to go on for mind-numbingly lengths if the musicians know what they’re doing. The Sputnik Trio have this all figured out.