Paul Plimley, Barry Guy, and Lucas Niggli show off more than just technique on Hexentrio
It’s tempting to attribute Hexentrio’s success to the collective virtuosity of local pianist Paul Plimley, British bassist Barry Guy, and Swiss drummer Lucas Niggli—who, as the Hexen Trio, recently closed the 2012 Vancouver International Jazz Festival with an even more visceral and flamboyant display of no-holds-barred improvising. Abstract as this music can get, it nonetheless suggests that the three can play anything, and indeed Guy regularly performs early music at an extremely high level, Plimley is intimately familiar with the classical repertoire, and Niggli has no problem fitting in with Chinese guzheng wizard Xu Fengxia in their Black Lotos duo.
But there’s more than mere technique going on in this music, which ranges from hushed, impressionistic meditations to scarifying blasts of noise to fleeting passages of sweetness and light. What most animates the band is its giddy physicality, likely stemming from the curious corporeal rapport between the drummer and the pianist. Niggli is lithe and dark, while Plimley is round and blond, but they’re almost kinetic twins given to playfully rapid-fire explorations of their instruments. Guy plays with no less abandon and can be equally speedy, but in this context he often provides the solid, essential core that lets the other two fly.
Guy also came up with one of Hexentrio’s craziest ideas: a gibberish redaction of Samuel Beckett’s “dramaticule” Come and Go that’s wonderfully, barkingly mad. The players don’t even touch their instruments on this surreally entertaining vocal showcase—and since none of them are singers, it just goes to show that in improvised music, fearless minds matter most.