Visits embodies a paradox, blurring the lines between improvisation and composition, between jazz and classical, between spontaneity and planning. As an ensemble, the idea of piano, violin and cello could not be any more traditional, but to hear what Carei Thomas (p), Gary Schulte (v) and Michelle Kinney (c) do within that instrumental space is to lose yourself in the possibilities of a group so in tune with one another that the music transcends tradition to become something more pure and more primal. The improvisational piano trio was born.
AACM stalwart Thomas and fiddle champ Schulte had already been playing together in various ensembles when Michelle Kinney was invited to join them onstage at the Andrew Riverside Church’s Toad Hall in 1986. Her cello drew the group down a new path, away from the more traditional jazz improvising that Thomas and Schulte had been doing on Thomas’ original compositions. New possibilities opened up, and new compositions were spontaneously generated on fragments of Thomas’ work.
Thomas and his compositions have remained the touchstone for the group, providing the seeds for improvisations that are often meditative, revealing bold harmonic development resting somewhere between the avant-garde and the traditional. Thomas refers to this compositional concept as “Brief Realities,” and there could be no more apt term. “They are gifts to the audience, the environment, and the unseen spirit/energy that connects us to the past, present and future,” he says. “I feel this improvisational concept gives performers a structure that defines and focuses content while offering a broad choice of source material. Within this tonal order, invention/improvisation ignites the developmental process that creates the true composition and allows it to remain everychangingly fresh."
In that spirit, Visits is a document, a record of these explorations. Recorded in the mid-1990s and first released on cassettes, it receives via innova its first digital pressing, capturing the nuance and spirit of these live performances.