José Negroni’s piano playing is unique. Although he can be lithe and delicate in his expression his touch is generally heavier, almost like the hand of a conguero. Of course he is not that instrumentalist and his playing is informed by that of someone like Don Pullen, who not only played but attacked the keys in order to dominate them with religious fervour.
Not only that Pullen hammered chords out of the harmony, often rolling his fist this way and that to produce dense clusters of notes and yet let a delightful melody ring through. The elder Negroni sometimes does that. He also repeats notes and phrases, with his left hand, indicating that he employs a disguised Latin Touch; using a heavy bass line or what Latinos refer to as “tumbao”. This can be felt throughout his hypnotic melodies. And they are incredibly mesmerising, their pervasive vamp with shifting fourths and fifths growling in the bass clef of the music, even when other musicians are soloing. This is like Sonny Rollins, whose long lines take a myriad bars to unfold and even when they do they are stated and sung in an equally myriad of ways.
Negroni is a man full of musical ideas and he plays them with great joy in the expression. This good humour is contagious. It affects first his son, the drummer, Nomar, who is constantly trying out new and wildly inventive polyrhythms. Father and son appear to constantly push the envelope toward each other and each time they are separated by a greater divide between them, so that each must push the envelope further. Both men do this fine with a seemingly never ending flow of ideas. What seems like a given structure is never remained with for too long and when each musician is on his way then nothing can hold him back. While examples of these wild expeditions abound the one on “Expressions” is a brilliant example of the fearless improvisational skills. In fact bassist Josh Allen too is sucked into the might vortex and acquits himself with flying colours with his brawny, sinewy playing as does the saxophonist Ed Calle, who plays such elongated notes with remarkable glissando that his soprano sometimes harks back to a score of wailing violins.
The incredible invention of José Negroni’s vision is contained in the classic, “Estate” which has one of the most extraordinary deceptive introductions before he hammers out the melody as it is known. Negroni also gives a remarkable recital of “My Way” commanding the solo space for the most part. Nomar Negroni does provide special percussive colour. But it is the bassist, with his aching arco playing that steals the show here. His performance is full of high drama and he infuses the song with the pain of trying and the ecstasy of achievement. This brazen bowing is upheld by the soaring arpeggios from José Negroni as he brings the song to its dramatic close.
The Trio’s collaboration with the great Uruguayan violinist is a sensational one. It is remarkable how José Negroni and Federico Britos are capable of suggesting a much larger ensemble. Also Negroni has been able to extract the sound of ecstasy from the violin of the master. Especially noteworthy is the fact that Britos plays in a majestic modern style carving the air around him with the most majestic arabesques and Florentine structures that he has ever played before.
On The Way may appear to a rather dry collections of a band that is on the move, but the observations are sharp and refined, thus making the record a remarkable testament to the power of narrative by each of the musicians.
Tracks: On The Way; Matrices; Blue Forest; Estate; Dancing With The Bass; Oak Tree; Expressions; My Way; Looking For You; Retrospection.
Personnel: José Negroni: piano; Nomar Negroni: drums; Josh Allen: acoustic bass; Ed Calle: tenor, soprano saxophone (2, 5, 6, 9); Federico Britos: violin (10).
Negroni’s Trio – Official Website: www.negronistrio.com
Label: AA Records
Release date: September 2012
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama