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Matthew Ruddick

Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Tuesday, 23 January 2018 04:12

Trichotomy - Trichotomy And String Quartet Live

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Antipodean group creates tasty jazz/classical smorgasbord.

Trichotomy is something new to me but not, it would seem, to the jazz world in the southern hemisphere, where they’re celebrating their twentieth anniversary creating a swirling mixture of atmospheric jazz, avant-garde noise and contemporary classical.

The band is Sean Foran (piano), John Parker (drums) and Samuel Vincent (bass). Following a studio album last year they’ve released this EP with a string quartet (Sarah Curro (violin), Rebecca Adler (violin), Bernard Hoey (viola) and Dan Curro (cello)) to add some heft to their fluent sound. It’s a live live cut recorded in Brisbane.

The recording is of five specially composed suite of acoustic and string quartet, a bit of a departure perhaps for a group apparently well known for including electronica in their music. Their sound? Well, think EST, Trio Kait and perhaps a little of The Bad Plus, washed through with Michael Nyman. The sound is strong on groove and looped melodies, layer applied upon layer; but this is not an album of Peterson-punch or Hancock-hi-jinx. It’s more straightforward, with a certain simple light touch feel and is certainly pretty peppy at points.

Track one Dancing About Architecture is all scratchy staccato and very hard-plucked strings from all four quartet members. In many ways, the quartet almost over-powers the trio with its harsh sound, but there’s some compelling playing through the soundcloud. Track two An Acre of Time offers an intriguing title and a softer, pastoral tune, again with a lot of plucked strings. The improvisation of the piano behind the strings is sparse, but well balanced, not too much but enough to give the track some life.

Track three Out Of The Dark Sky starts off with what I thought was the audience jumping the gun but is in fact the band members setting out a beat with hand claps over which pianist Foran plucks his strings, introducing a pedestrian cello and rain-drop-drizzle of pizzicato violin. The track, however, doesn’t really build to much, though it has some interesting lower-end shenanigans

Track four A State Of Change is all wibbly-wobbly strings and double bass at the start, with some crunchy and jackhammer piano from Foran in the middle section, thrusting out power chords by the yard.

Track five Life Gets In The Way is a more event tempered affair, with some lively contrasts between the strings and the piano in their interplay. Mid-way through the track grinds to a halt - almost literally, as the violins scrape and screech into a lethargic, mournful elegy which introduces a jaunty, let’s-go-have-fun melody from the violins.

My big disappoint was the overall sound. Sure, it’s live, but it’s not I think a great mix; it's lacking bottom end and at some points the piano seems rather lost in the mix.

I wasn’t overawed by this album perhaps because of that, but it’s certainly something different. Combining the oil-and-water worlds of jazz and classical can be tough - only this week new research came out showing jazz and classical musicians’ brains work differently - but this Australian group sort of pull it out and, when they’re at their strongest, do so with some panache.

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