When Brian Groder issued FluiDensity with pianist Tonino Miano last year, it struck me as “an elegant dance between jazz and classical”, but the broad-minded Groder finds more than one way to make improvisational music. Reflexology — released last month — presents Groder in a trio format, playing songs that stick to the far modern jazz side of things. Crucially, he chose sympathetic partners for this cause, drummer Jay Rosen (Joe McPhee, Sonny Simmons) and Michael Bisio of the Matthew Shipp Trio.
Through this collection of eight tunes, Groder eases his trio through twisting melodies that blur the distinction between what’s improv and what’s charted. With no full chords at hand, Groder leans on Bisio to make up the gap, who tracks perfectly with the trumpeter on his sinuous themes and then discreetly slips out to solo. All the while, Bisio stays in touch with Rosen, and both alternate between keeping time and venturing out to follow the flow.
“What Not,” the opening track, sets this sort of tempo for the album. Groder moves to his own rhythm in an elliptical orbit around the rhythm section. Bisio knows just what to do, playing in lock-step with Groder when the head needs to be presented and peeling away for his own interpretation which he does while serving as the vital link between Groder’s horn and Rosen’s drums. “Hexadox” is structured in a similar fashion: another trumpet-bass head , some cooked-just-right trumpet soloing and an eventual return to the head. But before then Groder leads the trio briefly down some side alleys and they stay right with him. The pensive, nocturnal “Tarried Breath” slows down the pace with Bisio taking a turn with a bow. Groder does an exquisite job melding his trumpet with the arco bass.
Each time out by Groder is a different adventure, but he consistently creates sketches of definable character performed open-ended but never unhinged and above all, polished. Reflexology attains all of those things, with a rhythm section that acts as a natural extension of its leader.