The Denison / Kimball Trio – Soul Machine

4 out of 5

Label: Skin Graft

Produced by: The D/K Trio

Porting over the slinky barcrawl jazz of their debut, The D / K Trio – sometimes a duo, sometimes with a guest to justify that name – are freed from the short-cuts preview of their sound, switching over from a film score to a narrative of their own. What that narrative might be is a little vague – the cover, and a vaguely industrial undertone to some song names, along with bringing in some other mood-setting instrumentation, is suggestive of a study of isolation and self-automation – which in turn perhaps affects how far-reaching these compositions go, hitting some hiccups after the midway point where we start to repeat some tunes.

However, that mood is still an incredibly unique one, nearly three decades after the fact, and the “trio” find a ton of room within that space, bringing in keys (David Wm. Sims) and sax (Ken Vandermark) at appropriate points to push things looser, and more jazzy, or applying an ambient undercurrent to amplify that aforementioned sense of isolation. By including these elements selectively – these are truly guests, not a rotating third spot – Denison and Kimball can remain wholly in charge of the show, bouncing us back and forth between mystery and late-night strut. ‘Factory,’ in the album’s middle, might’ve served as a better endpiece, as it parallels opener Terminal 2’s mechanical edge, as it’s also here that we get some sounds-alike followup tracks, but ultimately, Soul Machine never loses its core sense of identity, coming forth much more strongly than on Walls in the City, even if the ultimate purpose of whatever the group may be aiming for – if more than just boppy post-jazz – remains somewhat inscrutable.