The album features Biskin's intricately crafted miniature tone poems that fuse the sensitivity of chamber music with the spontaneity of modern jazz. Biskin's composing for Trio Tragico emphasizes ensemble balance and its overall sound, rather than individual soloists. Joining Biskin are two virtuosos of modern improvised music, Dave Ballou (trumpet) and Drew Gress (bass).
Chosen as one of the Top 10 Jazz CDs of 2006 by by the editors of Amazon.com.
If today’s fragmented jazz community resembled the fraternity it was during the classic periods of labels such as Blue Note and Contemporary, clarinetist Andy Biskin’s compositions might be showing up on many albums besides his own. While not always self-consciously retro, his well-crafted miniatures recall a time when composer-instrumentalists like Gerry Mulligan and Joe Henderson were writing as adventurously as possible while maintaining an element of accessibility, something that Biskin accomplishes by lining up his contemporary ideas with what he’s discovered about the past.
Trio Tragico is at once relaxed, ambitious and deceptive. It’s a chamber-jazz record in the most veracious sense. But since this is bop, the rhythmic foundation is central even without a drummer. Bassist Drew Gress’s pulsing lines shuttle between boogie-woogie, tango and even thinly veiled classical bowing, which frees the horns to follow each other into avant-harmonic territory when the feeling hits. It’s the kind of thing that makes you listen more closely, to find out, say, where the written parts of the elegy “You That Knew Him” turn into improvisation.
—K. Leander Williams, Time Out New York
Trio Tragico offers a variety of redesigned song and dance forms. Biskin frequently sets his warm-toned clarinet against Dave Ballou’s trumpet and Drew Gress’ bass in three-part counterpoint, and pens multi-sectional, stop-and-start pieces that touch upon tango, waltz, polka, postbop, blues, and free resources. The trio has a compact, intimate feel more like a chamber group than a jazz band—there is an occasional jazz lilt if not outright swing, and if it feels initially that the soloists are constrained by their surroundings, the melodic curves and rhythmic juxtapositions challenge them to find solutions that are concise, poised, winsomely lyrical, and fit into the arrangements hand-in-glove. —Art Lange, Point of Departure
On the surface, Biskin’s 13 originals emit a strong bouquet of folksy chamber jazz, specifically the sort of hybridizations Jimmy Giuffre and Shorty Rogers were propagating at the close of the Fifties. Probe a bit deeper and the pastoralisms give way to a potent sense of contrapuntal acuity and marvelous degree of temerity. His compositions remind me of Steve Lacy’s writing in the attention to repetition and periodic use of pinpoint darting heads.
—Derek Taylor, Bagatellen.com
The trio blends subtle improvisation and nuanced group interaction so seamlessly into Biskin's compositions that the dividing line between the two vanishes. With creative arrangements and stellar interplay, Trio Tragico invokes a broad sonic palette, bringing these enchanting pieces to life. Whether exploring tangos, marches, Dixieland, bebop or any number of early American song forms, Biskin's trio handles it all with respect and good humor.
—Troy Collins, All About Jazz
Biskin’s writing lets the three players luxuriate in melodies that move from intimacy to expansiveness with ease. There’s the casual stroll of “I Should Talk,” the noir-ish “I Think Not,” the reverential “You That Knew Him,” and the Nino Rota inspired “Paging Mr. Yes.” Owing to the sturdy engineering of this tripod,
Biskin and his cohorts make do with the least amount of players, but it’s all the pieces require.
—David Greenberger, Signal to Noise Magazine