Posts Tagged ‘trio’

In many ways, the piano trio is to Jazz what drawing is to Art. It is the basic frame upon which much of the bigger colourful stuff is hung. It is almost graphic in its lines and cross-hatchings, yet capable of telling the full story with the simplest of means – a small drum set, an acoustic bass and one of the largest of the orchestra’s percussion instruments, the piano.

golden1So it is fitting on a number of levels that pianist/composer Casey Golden’s new Trio album, Outliers, sports a graphic cover drawn in black-and-white by none other than one of Marvel Comics’ finest, Ron Frenz. It is a spacey solarscape that one expects, say, Doctor Strange to zip through on one of his missions to other dimensions.

Much of the music on Outliers seems from another world, too (the word outlier comes from statistical mathematics and is “an observation point that is distant from other observations”). Golden’s compositions roll out based upon their own logic – like Monk or, closer to home, the writing of Mike Nock – a logic that finds its own balance between flow and stop, cluster and spread, tight and open.

Texture seems to take equal weight to melody and rhythm. Harmony is subservient to texture – the woven lines of album opener, the wittily titled ‘Flatpack Empire’, the repeated arpeggios of ‘Paralysis’ as well as that track’s faux-montuno under Ed Rodrigues’ questing drum monologue. The 49 second vignette, ‘Uncovered’ is almost Japanese in its linear economy.

It all seems so perfectly-formed and confidently joyful ­– but this music and this band is no overnite sensation. Both compositions and band have been gestating for almost five years since Golden’s previous recording.

Now, with Rodrigues and bassist Bill Williams, Golden has found a band that not only obviously in synch with his unique compositional approach but one that can breath together during the blowing sections. Check the fleet ensemble sections of ‘Us or Them?’ or the conversational banter and chat of the group soloing on ‘Recluse’. golden 2

One of the delights of Outliers is the blurring of head and improvisation – all merges into a cool yet sunlit miasma of music: total integration, as is with the three instruments, as is with the elements of Golden’s writing, also extends out to wrap all in together, solos, heads, all of it. It is rare that a musical vision is so complete, and completely of its own world.

It is doubly rare that such a refined and rounded-out vision comes from one so young. Casey Golden has already been one to watch for several years – Outliers vindicates our faith and makes me, for one, hungry for more from this unique ensemble.

Published February 2015 on australianjazz.net

The cover art for Melbourne pianist ade ishs’ new Trio album is of a dark deep lake, its surface untroubled, its edges calm and waveless.

Being a visual person, images often swim though my head while listening to music. This image appealed instantly as a perfect expression of the Trio’s music and especially of ishs’ playing – calm and settled on the surface, held in place by a spiritual gravity, its smooth face belieing the many cross currents interweaving and shaping the dark waters below.

Strength without force. Power without friction.

ade ishs 2

Opener ‘Acceptance’ is a perfect manifestation. At first almost too pretty, it asserts its calm power beneath ishs’ sure fingers. Drummer Chelsea Allen and acoustic bassist Daigo Nakai supply warm undercurrents to the untroubled waters of ishs melody and soloing.

‘Night Birds’ (composed in 2002) heats the Trio with its latin-rock groove propelled by Allen’s snapping backbeat – ah, a jazz drummer who doesn’t mind a backbeat, kudos! Nakai’s bass solo on ‘Night Birds’ lowers the dynamic with no expense to the groove.

ade ishs (lowercase respectfully observed) says of the Trio: “I’m trying to avoid having the piano always the front liner. On this recording the bass and drums are all front liners on different tracks”. As well as a nice balance across the album between the three – as all good piano trios must have, from Bill Evans down – Nakai also features prominently on the driving waltz ‘For What It’s Worth’ and Allen delivers more of that tough backbeat on the short, sharp shock that is ‘The Differing Sky’.

ishs’ own playing reminds me – although they are vastly different players technically and stylistically – of Dave Brubeck (of all people). The smile that is across his solos, the sometimes pugilistic attack, the open-heartedness, never afraid to play pretty but also never afraid to drop a dissonance, sweet-and-sour – the things I love about dear departed Dave I also love about ade ishs.ade ishs 1

After several solo piano recordings, this is the pianist’s first with his Trio. The lovely solo piece ‘Understanding’ makes me keen to check his solo albums. Truly beautiful, the pace of this measured and deeply meditative performance slows the worlds to its tempo – the openness and poised spaces in its intro and outro are haiku, breath in winter, bare trees.

As the ade ishs Trio album begins, it ends. ‘Go On 3’ is, like opener ‘Acceptance’, a calm waterway of three currents moving through time and days. It carries its stillness with assuredness, both knowing but not knowing where it is flowing to. And that is what has always made great jazz.

Published November 2103 on australianjazz.net