The Jeff Henderson Trioglodyte project came into being during a period that future anthropologists might well dub the neo-geographical isolation era. The Trioglodyte name evokes an image of cave-dwellers, of waiting out a storm and sheltering beside a roaring fire as the icy wind bites at their door. Like all of Henderson’s projects, this one was memorable and full of surprises. It was guaranteed to clear the cobwebs from a listeners brain and it did so by cunning means.  It had three drummers, THREE DRUMMERS.

Humans are hardwired to look for familiar patterns in the world about them. It is how they have survived. But when those patterns become too familiar inertia sets in and complacency follows. This is especially the case with music. Free music confounds some listeners but if they listened, really listened, they would find the familiar. Umberto Eco the Italian semiotician and philosopher pointed out the following. “All music has rules, it is just that some listeners fail to recognise them. When a decision is made not to adhere to any recognisable form, as in avant-garde music, that is a rule”.       

The Trioglodytes took us on a journey and although it seemed to traverse unfamiliar territory, in reality, it did not. What we experienced was largely primal and it triggered parts of our brain that we have been conditioned to ignore. The gig opened with a long passage of hypnotic drum beats. From three drummers who were in sync and yet communicating with each other. The usual tune forms had been abandoned but delineations existed to guide us between the sections or mood changes.

Henderson is the master of this type of performance art and because he was performing in front of a Jazz audience he placed Jazz totems throughout the 90 minutes. The first such totem was the opening line from Bags Groove. It was played a number of times, elided, and suddenly abandoned. It was totemic because it demonstrated the power of a familiar melodic line, which has embedded in its essence the unuttered form. 

We heard many such references throughout the gig and none were resolved in expected ways. Humans may be hard-wired to seek out familiar patterns and forms, but we are also devotees of puzzle-solving. If we were never challenged atrophy would set in. The references touched on loved Jazz standards through to mystical Albert Ayler lines. My favourite was the powerful phrase from Sun Ra’s invitation to depart via Spaceways Incorporated. ‘If you find earth boring, just the same old, same thing’ (June Tyson memorably sings this in the Sun Ra movie ‘Space is the Place’). I have posted three excerpts and one of those contains that reference.     

Others may have reacted differently and there is no right or wrong way to experience a gig like this. I left the gig with a smile on my face and an appreciation of the journey. And the freer sections brought fourth an unexpected memory of an old black and white film. Of Berber reed players dancing about a campfire in the desert and playing brief squealing phrases over endless hypnotic drum beats. 

Trioglodytes: Jeff Henderson (saxophones), Eamon Edmundson-Wells (bass), Chris O’Connor (drums) 

Guests: Kathleen Tomacruz (guitar), Julien Dyne (drums), Larsen Taylor (drums), Neva Tekela-Pule (Moog synthesizer).  

The gig took place at Anthology, CJC Jazz Club, 16 June 2021 is rated as one of the 50 best Jazz Blogs in the world by Feedspot. The author is a professional member of the Jazz Journalists Association, poet & writer. Some of these posts appear on related sites