Recorded February 1995.
A.D.D. Trio was active in Switzerland in the 1990s. Drawing on the talents of Christy Doran on guitar, Robert Dick on flutes and the young Steve Argüelles on drums and percussion, the trio naturally abode by the traditions of continental Euro-jazz. The band’s two recordings, “Instinct” from 1995 and “Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat” from 1998 are exemplary marriages of jazz form and rock sensitivity. The compositions are highly illustrative, yet complex and mostly improvisation-based. The trio filled a niche, seldom exploited by jazz or rock artists – a guitar in a multiple melodic and rhythmic role, and intelligent drumming structures providing ample, four-dimensional space for a variety of flutes. The playing is tight and the experienced musicians never yield to the temptation to show off.
Rock fans will be disappointed by unfulfilled promise of repetitive patterns. Jazz buffs may have a problem with the structure of most compositions. But fans of sonic asymmetry will return to these recordings with unwavering fascination.
We are welcomed by the unlikely wheeze from the flutist. The instrument punctuates a guitar figure that is too unobtrusive to be obsessive. Suddenly, bass-drum duo accelerates and introduces the piccolo flute in its graceful twists and turns. Initially, the high octave instrument invites the reluctant guitar to respond. But then it settles to whistle airily above the increasingly tight structure provided by the sensual drumming.
At times, it enters nearly registers redolent of shakuhachi.
After nearly four minutes, the rhythmic guitar reinvents the piece. It will create a tension over which bass flute will glide effortlessly. Its more commonly used cousin will finally intone a melody, only to crash against deep thuds from the drums. A loud progression from fuzz guitar will make overtures, but they are doomed and will bring no conclusion. An interlude evoking an earlier flute melody and a mellower guitar rhythm will lyrically lead towards a more optimistic closure. It is a clear, almost classic tone that bids farewell to this jewel.
At the outset, didjeridoo-like puffs from the contrabass flute collide with scraps from fuzz guitar. The strumming work fails to become more consistent and the titans choke in the duel until an unusual rock duo begins to test a rapid progression, then a lilting strut, then an offbeat workshop chop. The drum kit tightly keeps it all in place. Under the surface, the puffing woodwind strides until a looped guitar form takes the center stage, supported by a deep drone and punctuated by overlaid impressionistic guitar solo. The story evolves rapidly into a crescendo and stops at high speed.
The galloping rhythm is supported by both the drums and repetitive guitar. Bass flute echoes in misty landscapes, improvising freely. Half way through the piece, the guitar aspires to its own voice, only to fold back sheepishly into the rhythmic role. The flute’s poignant tone makes it for a wistful experience despite the gallop. Excellent introduction to the drummer’s compositional talents.
The high register of the oriental opening ushers us into a space populated with richly percussive textures. But the shamanic slapping does not last and the mysteriously Asian intro prevails until a more constructive guitar counterpoint shifts the direction. The flute returns, like starkly ink-colored brushwork. Blues, maybe, but with slanted eyes.
Twists and Turns
Back from the Orient, we return to a more familiar, Chicagoan territory. Christy Doran’s mid-tempo figure is easily recognizable from his OM days. One wonder if this is a cross-textual quotation. The unusual undertone of the contrabass flute provides a holding pattern for a succession of shuffling figures in which the guitar calls on both partners. After a moment of silence, the musicians fall into a collective exercise in doubt. Each ventures into the center stage, only to retreat with scraps of atonality. More color from warped percussion. Finally, a gentle breeze from the guitar oozes into the distance.
Way Up There
Like the first lark in Spring, the flute turns the annunciation of a new piece into a promise of a more jagged improvisation. This more decisively polyrythmic exposé stammers between warm guitar soli. It then picks up the pieces to hand over the direction to the drummer. Arguelles displays a disciplined palette until overlaid by the intrusive flute. But no melodic line will evolve from the fractured form. The most we can get is an occasional solstice from the entire trio.
This time the delicate brushing of the kit and vesperian guitar offer a slow-shifting background for the bass flute. With considerable agility, Robert Dick is running up and down the entire register of this instrument. The extreme frequencies are further expanded in the background – deafening bass drones through dull chimes. Occasionally, impressionistic guitar glissando provides a harmonic backbone. We are almost in the ECM territory.
All the Time, Anyway
The combo approaches from all sides, but we do not instantly know where the meeting point will be. Imperceptibly, the lattice is becoming denser. But the three artists fail to meet. Instead, they circulate at some distance from each other. The guitar accents are less ubiquitous, but paradoxically more divisive than the pervasive flute lines. The slow tempo allows the drummer to experiment with various responses to the dialogue that eventually unfolds between Doran and Dick. As their dialogue turns into an argument, the tempo rises but so does the rhythmic complexity. As often on this record, the tension fails to climax. Instead, the drummer clatters apart and the flute invokes the oriental mood of Cerulean Blues. But then a different band emerges, dependent on the thundering guitar rumbling, multilayered and not shying away from the confrontation. The 10-minute long opus ends with a flute coda, bathing in an electronic soup.
Syncopated rock breaks through in a Shrek mold. It yields to a structured flute melody, this time played without restraint. This is the ADD Trio at its most compact yet, linear and uptempo. It is articulate and unadorned, but somehow majestic.
For all those who have a chance to enjoy A.D.D. Trio, here are some other recommendations:
OM: Montreux Live & More (1974)
OM: Kirikuki (1975)
OM: Rautionaha (1976)
OM: With Dom Um Romao (1977)
OM: Cerberus (1980)
DORAN-STUDER-WITTWER: Red Twist and Tuned Arrow (1986)
DORAN-STUDER-BURRI-MAGNEGAT: Musik für zwei Kontrabasse… (1990)
Fredy STUDER – Christy DORAN: Half a Lifetime (1977-1994)
ADD TRIO: Instinct (1996)
ADD TRIO: Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat (1998)
Please note that the Swiss OM has nothing to do with the currently active US band under the same name, led by Al Cisneros. Nor should it be confused with the Spanish experimental jazz-rock band from early 1970s.