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Cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm originally formed what is sometimes called the Valentine Trio back in 2000, when the group paid homage to pioneering jazz cellist Fred Katz for a gig at the Empty Bottle jazz festival. The trio has taken on a life of its own over the years, and its just-released third album (billed to the Fred Lonberg-Holm Trio), Terminal Valentine (Atavistic), is the first to feature all original material. Still, Lonberg-Holm uses this particular vehicle to indulge his interest in dark pop music—the second album included songs by Syd Barrett, Jeff Tweedy, and Cat Power, among others—but that doesn’t stop the group, rounded out by bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Frank Rosaly, from pushing and pulling in any direction they want.
The cellist has created simple yet elegant melodies, which the trio wastes little time tearing to pieces. Yet even while the improvisations seem to dispense entirely with the chord patterns and rhythmic feel, some element of the original structure—a bass line, groove, or melodic shadow—remains, giving the listener something surprisingly accessible to grab on to. In particular, Lonberg-Holm delivers a gorgeous mix of lyric extrapolation and coloristic depth, unleashing elaborate constellations of bowed notes thick with the feel of string on string.
The Valentine Trio celebrates the release of Terminal Valentine with a gig on Thursday, May 10, at the Velvet Lounge. The same three musicians will play in strict free improv mode a night earlier, performing with the Italian reedist Gianni Gebbia at the Hideout.