The BPM Trio Steps Forth

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WARREN-DUBIN: Summer Night. MONK: Bright Mississippi. HARRIS: Just Open Your Heart. ROLLINS: Airegin. GARNER: Misty. BURNETT-NORTON: My Melancholy Baby. DWYER: Narcolypso / BPM Trio: Ben Dwyer, bs; Phil Dwyer, t-sax/pno; Mark Adam, dm / Chronograph Records CR090 (live: Moncton & Sackville, 2016)

This is the debut album of the BPM Trio, a Canadian group headed by Phil Dwyer on tenor sax and piano, his son Ben on bass and Mark Adam on drums. Phil Dwyer originally studied law, but somehow fit in concerts “here and there on Canada’s East Coast,” creating this trio. These recordings are drawn from concerts given in Moncton and Sackville, both in New Brunswick, which were hosted by Canadian jazz legend Roland Bourgeois.

Ordinarily I pass up albums that seem to me to be ordinary straightahead jazz, but the BPM Trio is really an interesting group. Phil Dwyer is a lyrical saxist with an appetite for a wide range of jazz styles from traditional to (somewhat) modern, and his son Ben is really an interesting bassist with big ears who can not only accompany his father but create his own lines, both underneath the sax and in his own solos. In addition, Adam is a creative drummer who breaks up the beat and accents perfectly without ever getting in the way of the others.

The album’s title, “Audi Alteram Partem,” comes from the legal principle whereby all sides be heard and accorded a fair right to reply. This is clearly the principle on which this trio is based, and I found it interesting to hear Dwyer play piano on Thelonious Monk’s Bright Mississippi in a style that seemed closer to Professor Longhair than to Monk yet still do justice to that jazz legend’s quirky way with rhythm. Trying to describe their playing in words is actually pretty difficult, not because I can’t follow what they’re doing but because they all do it their own way and yet manage to make everything synchro-mesh. All of their playing is uncluttered yet, when you put all three together, the finished product is akin to a very complex composition that simply includes improvisation as part of its structure.

Barry Harris’ Just Open Your Heart is the vehicle for more of Phil’s piano, this time in a slightly more conventional style but still interesting. His first improvised chorus is full of double-time figures yet comes back to the standard 4 feeling while son Ben plays fine walking bass behind him. In his solo, Ben D. channels Charles Mingus a bit, playing a lick from one of his tunes (my memory is playing me tricks today, but I think it’s from All the Things You Could Be if Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother). On Sonny Rollins’ Airegin Dwyer returns to the tenor sax, first playing somewhat minimal figures as the bass and drums play up a storm behind him, then getting into some more complex figures as he continues. Adam’s press rolls are particularly impressive on this track. At the very end they double the tempo for a dazzling coda.

Erroll Garner’s Misty is rearranged by Dwyer into a piece with broken rhythms despite its instantly recognizable melody. Parts of it seem to be in 10/4, other parts in even more fractured time. Just don’t break you leg tying to tap your toes to it. the drums fall away for Ben Dwyer’s excellent bass solo with dad playing soft piano fills. In Phil’s solo he tosses a lick in from the song next up on the program, My Melancholy Baby. Then when they get to Melancholy Baby, with Phil on tenor again, they play it straight for a while but then take that baby apart and toss out around to see what makes it tick. Adam gets some really great drum breaks on this one, and Phil later takes that baby outside and throws it up in the air to see where it lands.

The set wraps up with a Dwyer original Narcolypso, quite obviously based on Rollins’ St. Thomas. At around the 2:40 mark, however, Dwyer really starts pushing the envelope and playing some wild, outside jazz guaranteed to startle the average Caribbean islander out of his or her wits. Adam’s drums push the rhythm around like a bully in a jam session before Phil returns to ride the tune out in a more conventional manner.

This is a really fun album, well worth hearing.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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