Disc of the day: 29-01-10

Trichotomy: Variations (Naim Jazz naimcd131)
The more one listens to modern jazz piano trios the more one realises just how influential E.S.T have been. No group since the Bill Evans Trio in the 1960s has so profoundly altered the path taken by the perfect little combo of acoustic piano, double bass and drums.

The opener, Island Of The Sun, could fool many in a blindfold test into thinking they had stumbled on an unreleased E.S.T. recording, albeit from their early, From Gagarin’s Point Of View period. And if they listened to At The Right Moment, its follow-up, in the same circumstances, they might think of the Tord Gustavsen Trio.

But to suggest that this Australian threesome of Sean Foren (piano), John Parker (drums) and Patrick Marchisella (bass) are copyists would probably be unfair. What they have done is absorb the influences of some of the most distinctive piano trios around in the last decade. And that includes The Bad Plus and fellow Australians The Necks, too. They also, like so many young jazz groups, listen to Radiohead and Tortoise, too. And Philip Glass.

There are strong tunes here, there are good grooves, there is subtle interplay, and a nice range of moods, from delicate swing on At The Right Moment, to minimalist texture-laden pieces like Start (which includes strings and saxophone), and complex cross rhythms and pretty freaky moments on Variations On A Bad Day.

Excellent sound as you would expect from Naim.

Trichotomy are currently touring the UK and play Cardiff’s Torfaen Jazz Society this evening, Stratford-upon-Avon’s Stratford Jazz on Sunday, Ray’s Jazz Shop in London early on Monday evening, The Vortex in London on Tuesday, The Stables inMilton Keynes on Wednesday, The Jazz Bar in Edinburgh on Thursday and City Halls in Glasgow next Saturday. For more information of all these gigs go their website here and for the Stratford-upon-Avon gig go here.


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3 replies

  1. HI Peter, I haven’t heard of these guys, I will check them out. There was one thing though – I disagree on your first comment about the great influence of EST. This is something that seems to happen everywhere, Im really not sure how many musicians would say that they are influenced by EST. I think its more that jazz musicians are influenced by the things that EST were influenced by – minimalist classical music, trance, electronica, dance music .. whatever (Keith Jarrett) – but these are all things that were influencing people way before EST arrived, and often in a more exploratory setting than the music of EST. I know that a lot of British trio’s are talked about as having been greatly influenced by EST when in fact the artists themselves have hardly ever listened to the band. EST was a phenomenon because it brought wider interest to jazz from audiences from pop and rock, but I think the emphasis on how influential it was on musicians and especially their modern piano trios is often greatly exaggerated, or sometimes just not true. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the band, but wouldn’t you say someone like Keith Jarrett, or more probably Brad Mehdlau has been the bigger influence on the piano trios in question, rather than Esbjorn?

    • Aha! Caught making a rash generalisation…. again! Will I never learn? Well, yes, I take your point about a lot of the other piano trios around absorbing the same kind of influences as E.S.T. were absorbing, but I still think Svensson and band were a little ahead of the game. And, no, I don’t know for sure who were the specific influences of specific musicians. And I agree that young British trios seem to have different influences. I wouldn’t say Neil Cowley’s band or Curios or your own trio show any particular E.S.T. influence. But I have heard European and this Australian piano trios who, to my ears, do have E.S.T. influences. The E.S.T. influence is not restricted to the kind of fairly quick dance influenced rhythm a drummer might play, or the strong, rock tinged bass line, or the kind of pop-friendly harmonic and melodic sense of the pianist, but extends to the dynamic shape of a piece – that large, unbroken dynamic arch that was characteristic of the hallmark E.S.T. track – as well as the way the music is presented, the band ethos and philosophy.
      And of course Jarrett is hugely influential, and Mehldau too. Maybe what I should have said is that E.S.T. are one of those bands that very neatly epitomise the modern jazz piano trio style.
      Finally, I should add I see nothing wrong with having influences. I think originality is a rather overrated big stick which is used to beat young jazz musicians. A lot of the time less striving after originality and a little more being influenced by the tradition and those who have gone before would be no bad thing.
      And, I reckon if you did a blindfold test with this and asked the listener to name the band, a good fair few would mention E.S.T.

  2. I see what you mean – but I think there’s a difference between aesthetically sounding a but like EST and being influenced by them. ‘Modern Piano Trio’ are influenced by similar things. often things that come from outside jazz – pop, rock etc. I think these are the things that influence the piano trios rather than EST themselves. When talking about a large unbroken dynamic arch, this is something that is pretty much present (with differing degrees of subtlety) on a lot of jazz – Supersilent, the way Jarrett often composed his solo piano performances, much free music also adopts this form. This comes for minimalism, dance music, the things that were the really big influences on EST, and the reason why so many people could get into EST’s music. I’m not sure about their ethos and philosophy.. I don’t mean to down-play EST’s role in modern jazz trios, far from it, i think they were very important..but it is something that seems to get exaggerated a lot on behalf of (rather than by) the musicians!

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