Aeroplane Trio: Naranja Ha
Aeroplane Trio members JP Carter (trumpet, cornet), Russell Sholberg (bass, saw) and Skye Brooks (drums, percussion) might use a conventional acoustic jazz format as a starting point but the trio is hardly reined in by any long-standing conventions associated with it. The eleven tracks laid down in Vancouver on July 23, 2009 constitute the band's first commercial release, Naranja Ha, and is the culmination of more than eight years of music making (the group was formed in 2001 out of late-night “Aeroplane” improv sessions at Vancouver's Sugar Refinery). It's a generous set: not only does it include the forty-five-minute studio set but also a DVD that includes a full-length concert video, Live at Ironworks, and a mini-documentary, Getting to Naranja Ha.
On the CD, “Lucky Loonie” exudes a sing-song melodic sensibility that's firmly in the Ornette tradition, and the trio's playing evokes the kind of interplay one might hear between Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins. An intrepid player by nature, Carter's not afraid to colour outside the lines in a playing style that's as capable of playing straight-ahead as he is eager to extend the horn's sound into more experimental territory by strafing tracks with splatter, brays, and bleats. The longest piece, “Callejuela,” turns the lights down low for a supple, slightly Latin-tinged ballad featuring some decidely lyrical soloing by Carter on muted horn complemented by appealing cymbal shadings from Brooks. Elsewhere, the group indulges in tumultuous free-for-alls (“Rock Paper”), jazz-funk (“Whitehorse”), abstract explorations (the aptly titled “Lagoon,” “Plastic Farm Animals,” and “They Came and Took Away Our Kittens,” where Sholberg's saw and Carter's attack literally suggest cats heard in their death throes), blues-funk (“Crow's Nest”), and even a torrential noise vignette (“Whatever Happened to the Sand People”), all the while keeping an eye on the clock and ensuring that no tune pushes beyond the seven-minute mark.
Getting to Naranja Ha finds the trio relaxing in someone's living room (and later at the bowling alley) discussing influences and how they formed. Brooks recalls having his ears opened by the likes of Coleman, Zorn, Dolphy, and Tim Berne and how he dropped out of Horticulture school to play music, and the three also reflect on their group-focused and serious yet playful and comical approach to improv. Live at Ironwork is an unfussy in-concert document that has the three sharing a small and intimate club space in a forty-five-minute live set featuring formal pieces and two improvs. The video, which nicely captures the players' explorative spirit and democratic approach (Carter and Brooks positioned at opposite sides of the stage with Sholberg in the middle), follows an opening ten-minute improv with the more structured “Victoria Park,” which follows a memorable opening head with trio playing in the Cherry-Haden-Higgins tradition. The second improv, adventurous and slightly noisier than the first, segues into “Callejuela” with Carter purring his way through the main theme and subsequent solo, and finally the bluesy “Carlos the Black,” distinguished by some strong “free” trumpet-drums interplay. All told, Naranja Ha's two discs provide as in-depth a portrait of the band in its current state as one might possibly desire.