#7: Trioscapes – Separate Realities

(Metal Blade, 2012)

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Now, my relationship to jazz is tentative at best, but I know what I like. And I like this. Trioscapes, as the name would suggest, are a trio consisting of drums (Matt Lynch), bass (Dan Briggs) and saxophone (Walter Fancourt), three of my favourite instruments. Three-member bands have a great appeal to me. Perhaps it because you can clearly demarcate the contributions of each member as they play or perhaps because the playing is uncluttered and allows more room to stretch out or improvise. Either way, I love me a good trio. And this is a good trio.

The first thing that struck when listening to this album was the drumming style of Matt Lynch, which seemed unusual for jazz drumming. No groove-heavy ride cymbal plonking or brushes that could be heard. The drumming is pretty much balls out, hailing deft snare blows on the listener whenever a crevice is available for it to peek through and avalanche upon avalanche of double kick drums. I am usually not a fan of a double kick drums and this is no exception, though I feel that’s more on my end than it not fitting the song. Whenever I hear a double kick blast, I am immediately taken out of the song (and taken to a metal song which I’m not enjoying) – just my prejudice. It fits in with the aggressive style of the music happening, though, suiting the metallic tinge that colours much of the record.

The saxophone doles out meaty riffs and spurious, frenetic improvisations in equal measure here, and having the mid and high ends all to itself, does not feel any obligation to tone down or subdue its attack. The morass of squealing notes reminds me of David Jackson’s (of Van der Graaf Generator) atonal noodlings at times, which is always a good thing. As many sax players seem to do, Fancourt takes his turn at the flute as well, but in a much more subdued manner, as it steals the occasional glance in “Curse of the Ninth”, flitting about to provide an extra layer when necessary.

Dan Briggs’ bass playing is muscular in both tone and style and roves – though with purpose, not nervously – cutting a wide path, and always in lockstep with Lynch’s drums. It hold down the chords it needs to for the sax to go madly off in all directions, but does not once produce a boring or middling passage. Much of the attack comes in the dizzying synchronicity of the rhythm section staying close together for tight passages, with a divebombing of saxophone on top in the high harmony for the finishing touches.

As a sort of fence-sitting jazz fan, I loved the hell out of this album. The tracks never seemed to meander so far into completely aimless noodling (not even the 11+ minute title track) and the musicianship is dazzling. The aggression in their playing can almost seem overwhelming at times, but if you prefer a heavier sound, this is the kind of jazz that’ll suit you to a tee.

8/10

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