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Trichotomy Variations Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A versatility that produces a new band style, drawn from many quarters.

Martin Longley 2010

Yet another jazz piano trio enters the fray. As Trichotomy are arriving from Australia, they can immediately be compared to The Necks, fellow countrymen of a slightly different bent. There are stretches of abstraction or repetition in Variations that might call to mind the completely improvised approach of The Necks, but Trichotomy also possess an old-school interest in lyrical expression, in the manner of pianists John Taylor or Bobo Stenson.

It also happens that Trichotomy have been playing together since 1999, when they were studying at the Queensland Conservatorium in Brisbane. This rules out any accusations of marketplace opportunism. Pianist Sean Foran, bassist Patrick Marchisella and drummer John Parker had been steadily performing and releasing albums in Australia as Misinterprotato, but have now been reincarnated as Trichotomy for their fresh UK existence on the Naim label.

The media, and perhaps the jazz audience itself, feels the need to fill the void created by Esbjörn Svensson's tragically premature passing in 2008. Indeed, there are several pieces on this album that directly evoke the sound of E.S.T., with Marchisella's upright bass plugged into a screamingly distorted effects box. Trichotomy have a propellant, linear forcefulness, but can frequently shift into a tranquil spaciousness. The emphatic bass, tumbling drums and a piano that maintains some kind of fixity recalls the internal relationships of The Bad Plus, leading US proponents of this format. There's also a song-like progression to At the Right Moment that recalls the hymnal quality of Norwegian Tord Gustavsen, but with a melody not unlike one of Neil Cowley's creations.

Branching Out has a fast footfall theme, purposeful ripples made until they magnify into a quicksilver pounding. Dynamism and dramatics are this threesome's strength. They manage to merge minimalism and folksiness during Start, with piano strings semi-prepared to create metallic rumblings, and a guest trumpeter lending delicate traceries to a tentative painting. Variations on a Bad Day dives into rhythmic jumpiness, dark tones pacing with intent as the fuzz bass hikes into overdrive, and there's a full Soft Machine-ist eruption on Chunk – or are those harsh angularities arriving out of the King Crimson cosmos?

Despite all of these evocative comparisons to their fellow piano trios (and beyond), the composite end-result is something that can be called Trichotomy's own. The album is aptly titled, as Variations are constantly being made, with a versatility that produces a new band style, drawn from many quarters.

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