The Colin Vallon Trio
, a trio of all Swiss-born musicians, made its New York debut at the Rubin Museum of Art on May 20, 2011, with their subtle and darkly hued music. The trio’s recent ECM release Rruga
, whose title is the Armenian word for “road,” is a disc committed to a collective approach to the traditional piano trio.
Each composition was rendered with almost no conventional jazz solos. Instead, a sensitive and group-minded approach to improvisation was geared to allow each of the arrangements to inhabit its own atmosphere. Pianist Colin Vallon, bassist Patrice Moret, and drummer Samuel Rohrer created a framework whose limits they experimented with and stretched to great affect. It was refreshing to hear a group play with so much attention to volume. In part due to their scarcity, the moments that the group actually reached a true forte were thrilling.
The trio’s repertoire features compositions penned by all three members. Vallon’s “Meral,” named for his Turkish grandmother, alludes to the music of the Caucasus without simply copying any particular styles from this part of the world. Instead, he achieved an out-of-tune piano effect by jamming something between certain strings, or “preparing” the piano. It evoked the microtonal scales in Eastern European and West Asian music. Whether it's the music of the Caucasus, modern jazz, or free improvisation, the group filtered all of its influences through its own personality, developed from working together for over six years.
The Rubin Museum of Art is a first-rate venue for hearing live, acoustic music in New York City. Its wood paneled concert hall is a perfect setting for unamplified performances. The museum, which showcases Himalayan art, also seeks to connect its concerts to its collection of paintings. The Colin Vallon trio, like all performers who play there, were invited to pick out pieces they admired, and then have them projected behind them during the performance. The first half of the concert featured a Tibetan painting of the Buddha seated in the traditional meditation pose with his hand touching the ground, a gesture that represents his enlightenment. The colors and form of the painting, with their calm but radiant beauty, were a fitting compliment for a group whose talent lies in sensitivity to one another, and meditative, naturalistic sounds.