David Friesen is a superb bassist with a large attractive sound, superior technique and the ability to uplift any session he is on, whether as a leader or a sideman. On Where The Light Falls
, the 2012 Jazz Society of Oregon Hall of Famer is accompanied by his regular trio, consisting of the fluent and consistently creative pianist Greg Goebel and the endlessly supportive drummer Charlie Doggett. Guitarist Larry Koonse, well-known for his work in the Billy Childs sextet, joins the trio on nine of the album's 19 tracks.
Throughout this two-CD set - which has performances drawn from sessions from Osnabruck, Germany, and Tempe, Arizona, plus a few live numbers from Portland, Oregon - close attention is paid to mood and tempo variations. Uptempo pieces are followed by ballads, Koonse's appearances (at the Tempe sessions) are programmed mostly as every other selection (a trio outing followed by one from the quartet), the solos on the post-bop material are inventive and there is plenty of close interplay between the musicians.
So why is the rating not higher? It comes down to musical ingenuity. David Friesen, whose music typically combines elements of jazz, folk, classical and Jewish music, composed all 19 of the songs, but even with their mostly original chord progressions, the tunes themselves are not particularly memorable. Writing songs is a completely different skill than being a virtuoso jazz improviser. While these originals give the quietly passionate trio/quartet some challenging and innovative structures , the lack of any strong melodies makes one wish that Friesen, who has appeared on more than 65 albums as a leader or co-leader, and who has performed under some of the biggest names in jazz arranging and composition, had chosen to perform and release a few songs from other notable writers. The solos and the playing in general are on a much higher level than the compositions. * Label comment
: "Playground," from Where the Light Falls
, was awarded Second Place in the Jazz category of the 2015 International Songwriting Competition. Judges included Pat Metheny, Danilo Perez, Stanley Clarke, Glenn Barros (Concord Records), and Jean-Luc Ponty.