Mike Khoury has been playing in improvisational ensembles for awhile now, but none have produced results as memorable as his trio with Jason Shearer and Ben Hall. Khoury is a highly skilled violinist and hearing him apply his talent in an avant-garde, free jazz setting is impressive. He is accompanied by Hall's spastic drumming and Shearer's saxophone explorations. On "Braille," this trio impressively feels their way through jagged corners and abrupt turns, creating a relaxing mesh of raw sound. Even though most free jazz records are based around a model that's over a half-century old, Khoury, Shearer, and Hall do very impressive things within those confines.
Throughout these seven tracks, or "motives" as they're called, the overall theme feels like a fairytale. Khoury's violin playing is the centerpiece to most tracks, but it?s the interplay with Shearer's saxophone that make this album listenable, and not a jumbled mess. On "Motive 10," Khoury and Shearer do some nice call-and-response, showing their ear for what each other is playing. At one point, Khoury plays his violin like a guitar which acts as more of a complement to Hall's methodic drumming. Listening to this, I can't help but feeling transported to New Orleans or Chicago circa 1930. Even though avant-garde improv like this didn't come around until later, there's an early '30s feel to it. It mostly is because of the way Shearer blows his horn, but when Khoury starts playing more melodic passages on the violin, it adds to the effect.
Track after track, this trio does an excellent job of building on tension and finding ways to release it. The real stress emanates from Hall's drumming. It's sporadic in just the right way and gives the violin and saxophone a foundation to jump around on. As Khoury and Shearer go back and forth between who takes the lead, their wailing tones coalesce into a cathartic release. Each track is similar, but works toward the greater good and gives this album a distinct feeling. It's fantastic.
I'm never quite sure how to approach a review of improvisational free jazz, but the bottom line is that this release is very good. It isn't a train wreck of sound like a great deal of free jazz is. This trio has a strong sense of melody and it comes through loudly on "Braille." There is a lot of freedom here, but they don't abuse it to create an impenetrable racket. If more free jazz was like this, I'd listen to it a lot more. 7/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)