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Album Review

This 1996 recording by the loosely knit Trio LTD also includes an appearance by a much younger special guest, trombonist and singer Bertl Mueller. Like other outings by this group of capable — even brilliant — improvisers, humor is as much a part of the proceedings as breaking new ground. The setting is as follows: Lauren Newton, voice; Dirk Rothbrust, percussion; and Thomas Horstmann, guitar and synths. Each of the 12 selections here are credited to the group but four. One of those selections is a cover of Sammy Cahn's "I Should Care" — and certainly the only thing that could be called a standard here — the hinge on which the entire recording turns. The track which precedes and melts into "I Should Care" is actually an improvisational ballad called "Should I Care?" It emerges from silence; a deep-forest like silence. There are sounds, many of them unidentifiable; there are rhythms, but none you can find our place in. For nearly four minutes, you are immersed in this eerie darkness, inching your way along. The tension the group creates is both indescribable and sensual. When "I Should Care" finally emerges from this strange, sexy ooze, it comes as a reward, as a boon granted for wandering the distance in this black atmosphere. Typically, this version sounds almost nothing like the original, but it hardly matters; it's a welcome surface, no matter how whimsical and ethereal, for us to hold on to. There is a short suite closing the record, called "See Europe in Six Days," which showcases Trio LTD and their co-conspirator Bertl Mueller in full humor. Synths and percussions erupt before multi-tracked vocals and trombones burst in on the proceedings and swing phraseology — with full scat-singing regalia provided by Newton — chop themselves into and through classical notation and cartoon music before collapsing completely in an exhaustion of the senses. Trio LTD plus Bertl Mueller is a demanding yet rewarding ride through the outer edges of group improvisation. It pulls no punches yet leaves most of its pretensions somewhere else.

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