EDITOR'S PICK, DEC, '16
David Friesen's new album with his Circle 3 Trio is a deeply personal statement, from the clean, stimulating compositions that form the bulk of the disc to the original mixed-media collage that adorns the cover. As such, the music here feels buttressed by the support of real life experience, and almost always the listener gets the sense that highly individuated musical concepts are in play. The group wrestles with aspects of repetition and pace on the album's opener, "Whetstone," on which drummer Charlie Doggett and pianist Greg Goebel lock into a tenaciously ascending groove that brings the song to a fluid, shimmering close. And on "Let It Be Known," piano and bass create an interlocking framework of punctuated notes, only to tug at the joints and junctions as the song goes on, testing its internal strength. Friesen plays a Hemage electric upright bass, and the warm, voice-like tone he extracts from that instrument is yet another facet of this album's poetic quality. It is particularly compelling on "Everything We Are," a brisk waltz-time number on which Friesen solos with the care and attention of a master sculptor; each stroke of the string is heard with immense clarity, lending a glowing sense of humanity to the shape of his lines. The waltz meter seems a comfortable form of conversation for this group, as two of the album's other highlights - "Turn In The Road" and "Rainbow Song" - are also in 3/4. Despite their metric similarity, these songs are stylistically worlds apart. "Turn" is a quiet, windblown song with stretches of dark clouds rumbling through clear skies. With its internal focus and skin-close simpatico, it is reminiscent of Bill Evans' trio work in the 1960s. "Rainbow," meanwhile, is chest-thumping and exultant, a declaration of musical presence that swells from a brooding introduction into a climactic finale.