It may be a challenge to grasp but the task is certainly worth the effort.
Charles De Ledesma 2008
Eschewing any mainstream definitions of jazz, the US-based trio Free Fall are clearly located within an avant garde, exploratory rubric, borrowing from chamber classical, improv and the kind of expressive, 'free' jazz, which, these days, seems to be the sole preserve of North Europeans. Indeed, pianist Havard Wiik and bassist, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten are Norwegian, but the trio's leader clarinettist Ken Vandermark, is American. This perhaps helps the moods and shapes on The Point In a Line, their third CD, to be both Nordic-abstract but with an Americanised, rhythmic sensuality. All three too work as much outside as in jazz circles, mainly circling around Chicago's virally creative live scene.
The set continues the pattern developed in its much-heralded 2004 predecessor, Amsterdam Funk, which aimed to capture the quickness and spontaneity of the band’s live performances. The opener, Music For Clocks, is spiky, upbeat and humorous with Vandermark's dexterous clarinet skitting impishly across bass and drum probings. Invisible Cities, an improvisation around a haunting clarinet melody, is more melodic and less charged, including an intense, dissonant conversation between Vandermark and Wiik. Italics starts flamboyantly with a screeching clarinet over forceful piano, but meanders off-message with an undeveloped bass solo.
In all, Free Fall's third CD explores fascinatingly the sharp, open, edges possible in the trio format. A subtle collective imagination is at work here, although much of the sonic detail is quite introspective and understated. It may be a challenge to the listener to grasp the 'Free Fall aesthetic' but the task is certainly worth the effort.