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The River of Orion: 30 Years Running

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Album Review

The River of Orion: 30 Years Running was realized in observance of the String Trio of New York's three decades of creative collaboration. Recorded in Milano, Italy on November 12-14, 2007, it contains two suites; guitarist James Emery's "The River of Orion" and bassist John Lindberg's "Journey Platz." The third member of the group, Rob Thomas, is the fifth violinist to have worked with the Trio, which since 1977 has featured Billy Bang, Charles Burnham, Regina Carter, and Diane Monroe. The Trio's 20th anniversary was marked by the album Faze Phour: A Twenty Year Retrospective, which combined standards by Ellington, Mingus, and Monk with originals by Emery, Lindberg, and Monroe. The River of Orion is also a logical and impressive sequel to Thomas' first album with the Trio, Gut Reaction, which was released by Omnitone in 2003. River of Orion was essentially the very last album released on the Black Saint label before it was sold by Flavio Pelliciotti to Cam Jazz in 2008.

Emery began composing The River of Orion in the summer of 2005 and completed the score during the spring of the following year. Its five notated movements are interspersed with four open-form interludes which were engendered by "standard and neoteric improvisational concepts." The River of Orion, also known as Eridanus, is the sixth largest and second longest of the constellations, and has been referred to throughout history as the Celestial River. At northern latitudes, it is best seen in the southwestern sky during the month of January, beginning near Orion's knee, running toward Cetus, then meandering between Fornax and Caelum. To Emery, the constellation and the music represent the flow of the cosmos and "the ever changing paths of life and music"; the "infinity of change" which is characteristic of the water element, and the "feet on earth, head in the sky" aspect of human nature. The collective interplay is friendly, surprising, and thought-provoking.

Lindberg, whose artistic initiation included life-changing interactions with Anthony Braxton, describes "Journey Platz" as "a mythical place you can't get to, and if you do get there you can't come back." Using a "colorful graphic/verbal score," the work was tailored for the personalities and instruments of three virtuosi as individuals and as a unit, to inspire that which transcends notation and traditional methodology. Stating that "having fun is a central dynamic," the composer crafted a work "that launches musical creativity without margins, tells a fresh and in the moment story with each hearing, yet is particular to these three unique and connected artists." He accurately claims that the five-part suite "shows the ensemble at its peak of inventiveness," and ends his portion of the liner notes with this statement in the upper case: "Reactive spontaneous immersion in the moment without preconceptions of any kind while being in a space beyond thought, is vital to Journey Platz."


Formed: 1979

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The String Trio of New York has long been one of the finest avant-garde chamber jazz groups around. Formed in 1977 by bassist John Lindberg, guitarist James Emery, and violinist Billy Bang, the group was originally intended to spotlight its members' compositional skills, in addition to their advanced collective improvisations. As the years passed, however, the String Trio expanded its focus to include numerous commissioned works by contemporary avant-gardists, plus arrangements of classic pieces...
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The River of Orion: 30 Years Running, String Trio Of New York
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