Contrarily to the perverse trend en vogue among certain jazz visagistes – that of reducing what once was unconstrained to a series of aesthetically agreeable rules – the trio of Aki Takase, John Edwards and the late Tony Levin, here recorded in a couple of 2008 live stints in the UK, is not concerned with finding the corridors leading to enforced conviviality. Their music is unsmiling in a positive sense: tensely concentrated interplay often exploding into vigorous discord in the sort of collective upsurge that typically causes laid-back audiences to clap politely at first, then leave the venue during the subsequent number. Takase’s pianism, frequently aided by preparations, is a combination of logical articulation and overwhelming entanglement with superior forces; one receives it as a single mass of acoustic events where, with due attention, internal designs and idiomatic outflows can be individuated. Edwards adheres to the concordat by offering a great performance, the bass suspended between comradeship and argumentative challenge with technical mastery to spare. Levin utilizes the drum set with committed suppleness, substantial rolls and interlocking patterns influencing the communication decisively and effectively as he leaves the colleagues in charge of the contrapuntal department. John Tchicai’s resolute alto sax appears in “Just Drop In”, a welcome touch of linear divergence in this palpitating, uncompromising album.