Jorge Rossy, Robert Landfermann, Jeff Ballard: Puerta

For his ECM leader debut the former Mehldau drummer plays tuned percussion at the head of a minimalist and egalitarian trio


Jorge Rossy is best known, of course, as a drummer, notably with Brad Mehldau and Charlie Haden, but since 2000 he has also worked and recorded as a pianist. For his ECM debut as leader – but not for the first time on record – he has turned to the vibraphone and marimba, handing over the drum stool to Jeff Ballard. Robert Landfermann completes the trio on bass.

For this set of original compositions – excepting Cargois, written by Chris Cheek – he wanted to “leave lots of space for the instruments to breathe and unfold by playing fewer, essential notes” and to place each instrument on an equal footing, each sharing the spotlight to the same degree. In forming this trio, Jossy knew that he needed three soloists, not just a rhythm section, for the set to be a completely balanced affair.

As he did when playing drums, his contributions unfold in elegant waves, made up of minimal phrases all chosen with care. Remarkably, when young he was also a trumpet player for 10 years, and the lessons in melody he learned from that time translate well to his new instruments. 

Three of the pieces here – Post Catholic Waltz, Ventana and Maybe Tuesday (based on Gershwin’s The Man I Love) – are traditional triple-time pieces, moving deftly to a fleeting pulse, Rossy’s vibes set above walking bass lines and subtle drumming. On Tainos, as on Scilla e Cariddi, and ST, Jossy switches to the more resonant marimba, which he treats in a deferential way, resisting the lure of florid expression. Yet whichever instrument he uses, he is always inventive, exchanging and expanding ideas with his trio in a fertile way.

The title track was written at a crossroads in Rossy’s life, in a London hotel room the night before his third to last gig with Mehldau. He hadn’t talked about leaving the band, yet knew it was time to move on. Puerta is Spanish for door, one that Rossy was about to open and walk through. This new chapter in Rossy’s musical life is an exciting one, and on the promise of this set, a rewarding one as well. Highly recommended.

Post-Catholic Waltz; Tainos; Adagio; Maybe Tuesday; Cargois; Scilla e Cariddi; Puerta; ST; Ventana; Adios (54.16)
Rossy (vib, marimba); Landfermann (b); Ballard (d). Basel, Switzerland, September 2020

ECM 2661

Simon Adams