Friesen's talent only grows and widens the jazz idiom. I was lucky enough to hear the trio appearing on this CD at the Jerry Heldmand CD release and life celebration last year. "Playground" is a live shot with with the guitarist Larry Koonse added, and they are just having fun, dancing light joyful. Pianist Goebel has lyrical explosions, and the counterpoint of David Friesen's bass and the percussion of Charlie Doggett are never in the way, always talking and creating lines for the other players. "Dance with Me" is is a studio cut done in Germany, and I love how the percussion takes this almost as the melodic solo. Great mixing. The interweaving bass runs behind are superb. "Left Field Blues" is straight-ahead bop-like blues with the piano comping then darting out. The bass is clean and distinct, the guitar warm and clear, and the percussion feels almost like he is using brushes, he is so balanced and easily stated. Goebel's piano is lyrical, using the high end, and the speed with which he executes runs is dazzling. Friesen solos with and easy flow and in the bop/blues tradition. The guitar builds off this with a thin lyrical solo with no one behind for a bit, and then all jump in.
"Road Less Traveled" is a contemporary ballad with the piano leading the way in this live recording. Some bass counters underneath, the drums quietly touching, then they build. The bass solo here is more on its own, flowing note clusters, just at ease. "Sailing" has the guitar of Koonse leading in, and the song has some of the old 50's Chico Hamilton Quintet feel. In fact, there are a couple other tunes that put me in the same mindset. Friesen takes over with some piano and guitar underpinnings. More lyrically singing piano and crisp rolls of percussion echoing the piano, and the tune moves and dances right along. "Green Hills Slowly Passing By" is a slow ballad opened by the contemplative piano. Friesen enters soft and clear and melodic. You are held suspended musically. "Zebra"opens with straight-ahead drums with plenty of bass drum and snapping of the sticks that would make Krupa, Rich, Bellson take notice. This releases to Friesen as he establishes the quick pulsed beat accented by drums, the piano arrives with guitar, and they are embroiled in multiple lines and counterpoint. Goebel's piano takes off in a quick and witty solo that releases to percussion and into counterpoint. Great approach. "Unfolding" starts with light low drum percussion and some mid-range piano. Like the organized chording and use of mid to lower-end piano which Goebel rarely explores. Listen to Friesen's bass counter, support, and hint at swing. They truly unfold the layers of approach and improv. "Dark Resolve" is and angular, minor , and slightly discordant theme that all three explore, very much reflecting the title. Like the improv ideas developed by each player. The final cut on the first disc is "Day of Rest," with a comp opening on upper and lower piano sections by Goebel, working the edge of classical and lovely corner lines, even skirting the edge of boogie. He has plenty of room to develop before the percussion accents and the bass moves into a very complicated and quick-noted solo. Great talk with bass, percussion, and piano, even though it is Friesen's solo. Then Koonse's guitar joins in the building, ever evolving and driving exchange. Not much rest on this cut!
The second CD begins with "Stepping Stones," just bass and percussion in a walk, then Goebel joins in melodic mid-range lines. Listen to the tight clusters of Goebel's piano and the percussive explosions of the bass accented by tight drum work. Superb, clean, and very rooted. "Reaching for the Stars" is a ballad with light piano and Koonse's guitar talking. Focused piano and guitar cross-talk, lyrical and exploratory. Like the angular effects of both. :Counterpart" has the bass weaving us to the core. The light snap of percussion and mid-range power piano chords all weave. The piano builds to a strong chord then releases with the bass coming in underneath. They create a fun mood with lots of improv, not just a riff. This is one of my favorite cuts for creating a simple mood with total creativity. "Song for Ben" is introduced with warm ballad Goebel piano in mid-range, a full and melodic statement. This song almost begs for lyrics. Friesen sails in over the top, and then the swinging guitar leads us into "Overland" as they take us on a swinging road trip. The Koonse guitar solo has crisp notes, some warm low-end, and lots of swinging as the bass and drums move mightily. Then Koonse lets loose with strong lines, followed by release to a drop out, and the swing is just as strong. They come back, and Friesen is given space for lots of note clusters that move the tune forward. They are all back and explode to the end. "Blue 10" has ballad piano, single bass note, and quiet drifting between the bass and piano, a very lovely, lyrical talking ballad, a conversation, if you will, that begs attention. I just loved the beauty of this piece. "My Dance" starts with some similar ballad-like lyricism and bass easing in, then they add a touch of rhythmic pulse, dancing back and forth off each other with a little percussion that will build in later in the piece as the swinging undertone mounts. The final song is "Tribute" with Friesen solo no bass exploring both the low and even some dissonant structure, moving with some very rapid note clusters showing the great virtuosity he has on the bass. He has all that creative and original foundation that comes from deep inside a musician's soul. He builds it slowly and begins to walk, and about two and a half minutes in, the percussion joins, adds a light chording from piano and guitar as they join the processional.
This album is a very strong presentation and a must hear for jazz fans. Musicianship is strong throughout. Four songs were recorded in Germany, the rest split between Tempe, Arizona, and Portland, Oregon live shows. The mastering is immaculate and seamless between these different recording situations. Origin Records scores very heavy with this CD set. Packaging is a six-panel double fold-over with two jewel boxes, just the way I love it. Binding is clear for shelf retrieval. Graphics are clear and clean. Song lengths are on the jacket but not on the CD. One of the most cohesive and developed jazz releases in recent memory.