Although a tale of two cities—three if you count the Ann Arbor, Michigan, recording location—this CD confirms that Toronto pianist Marilyn Lerner has cemented a mutually beneficial musical relationship with bassist Ken Filiano and percussionist Lou Grassi, both based in New York. Like a contemporary auto that doesn’t stint on speed and comfort just because it’s equipped with up-to-date safety features, the trio’s third disc expands the effortless, extrasensory perception of the classic piano trio with atonal musings and reflective extended techniques.
Each member is given space to introduce themes, and consequently deepen their contributions to the four improvisations, so there’s steak as well as sizzle, whether Filiano’s ragged pumps deliver snarling counterpoint to Lerner’s pressurized cadenzas, or her spare keyboard grazing is animated by Grassi’s measured cymbal splashes. Sometimes the trio flirts with conventional motifs, as when one theme on “A Point of Infinite Destiny” is reminiscent of a crime-show soundtrack. But battering-ram-like energy from all concerned means that this tremolo syncopation climaxes with barely restrained timbre bubbling, rather than a neatly sympathetic ending.
More exciting still is “Event Horizon,” where Grassi spins scene-setting clatters, chops, and whacks from tuned gongs into a full-kit solo that is the equivalent of each eye reflecting contradictory images and refining them into a complementary landscape. Lerner’s subsequent keyboard cascades slow the theme down into overlapping textures that are as mighty as they are mellow. Ending the CD with plucks harmonized from bass strings and piano wires, plus a resonating cymbal slap, the continued maturation of the trio’s approach confirms that it can improvise resolutely at many pitches and tempos.