This is the second CD of Friesen with his current Circle 3 Trio with Friesen on bass, Greg Goebel, on piano, and Charlie Doggett on drums, with all the music created by David Friesen, almost seventy minutes of creative improvisation.
This trio plays around the Portland, Oregon area (when Friesen is not on international or national tour or instructional events) with regular weekly gigs, and they have a tight sound, are well aware of each other's musical prowess, and instinctively play off each other, work counterpoint, ensemble, and free form with great dexterity. They should go on a world tour with their music. Friesen dates back to our jazz gigs of the 70s at the Tracks in Auburn, where he brought along and introduced me to a new player, John Stowell, in those days. Both are world renowned for their writing, their way of approaching their instruments, and their unusual techniques and attacks.
Friesen has been listed on a recent Jazz Bass Survey by jazz educators as one of the 24 most influential bassists in the history of jazz. When he plays, one wants to give a sharp listen. These cuts were recorded in Portland in late 2015 with clean sound, balance, and the usual sharp mixing that Friesen seeks. His overall brilliant production of the project is obvious.
"Whetstone" has Friesen plucking a pulse, just a touch of Doggett's drums, and the lyrical rhythmic piano of Goebel. They bulk the pulse with Goebel driving the lyrical beginning pushed by a firmer and more complex bass line. There is more pulse and slap from the percussion, and Goebel builds even more lyricism as the other two deliver a strong pulse. This releases to the clean bass solo by Friesen, quick little pops and pockets of clean lyrical notes.
On "Turn in the Road," Goebel chords and turns to rhythmic lines, and Friesen is lyrical, dancing behind and almost equal; the percussion is slight on this ballad. The bass moves more to the front and the piano just touches. Gorgeous. Bass solo is intricate and lovely. Goebel has a great knack for lyrically dancing rhythms and leading the trio into a straight-ahead time that swings beautifully. Doggett adds solid accents and beat keeping. The trio really merges and works as one. They release back into the more ballad approach to this gorgeous piece of music.
"Bright Light Sky" has a dancing pulse from Friesen, light percussion accent, all a bit Latin, and the piano very warm and lyrical again. The trio always works with complex lines but in a swinging and always meaningful, accessible sound. Goebel, using mid piano, talks the melody while Friesen is big and aggressively feeds the backside. Percussion is never over the top but always heard in such a tight, light element. They dance this tune.
On "Rainbow Song," there is a low-end, repetitive dirge as the bass and piano both walk and push this line in a low-end throb. Percussion cross-talks with the weaving line. There is lots of room to develop the theme, making more complex expressions from the dirge to high-end beauty. Friesen has a rapid note solo attack with touches coming from the other two. He refers back to the low-end line while finding high-end ballad expression.
"Side Step" is a lazy ballad, just lightly touching and accenting. This is a clean, loving side step. Goebel continues his lyrical lines with little bursts of the line, then lies back and lets it spill out cleanly. Whether fast or slow, his solos are filled with lyrical and time-expressive movement. Friesen's solo floats slowly, taking more of the major content. Gorgeous work. On many pieces, as on this one, you want to hear lyrics. This group can play outside, avant, but they are so at home with original lyricism.
"Another Time, Another Place" is one of those ballad songs that begs for lyrics. Goebel moves into the solo quietly, slowly establishing the tempo, then Friesen slides in underneath. They gather your musical psyche and embrace you into the music. Friesen almost solo/almost lead, has the piano and bass just touch each other then finish boldly in the ballad framework. "Right From Wrong" has Goebel chording as the bass runs some counter lines. The piano speaks with chords and lyrical talking lines. The percussion is solid here, accenting each player's lines and as they step up the tempo, Percussion swings unobtrusively, and the trio is accessible and in a loving lyrical space. Friesen talks, cajoles, with Goebel's accenting the Friesen solo.
"Let It Be Known" has the modern jazz angular lines of 70s-80s with a moving pattern, piano handling accents. Then they defer to Friesen, immediately soloing in a clean straight-line solo, rocking his sound and then some double-time rapid note sequences. The in-the-pocket accent of Doggett works as they build, and the piano comes back to and talks with the bass. They build light cacophony, rumbling and snapping percussion, the piano grabbing in a more avant mood, the bass running the lines as they descend over each other with the percussion solo slowly moving in then pulling off rapid bursts against the interplay of the piano and bass. This is very well arranged, very well played and interesting.
"Soft As Silk" is a delicate, quiet, contemplative ballad with Goebel's piano lightly hinting in the rhythmic and ballad tune direction. Friesen is bolder, almost a filling counter-point ballad line. This is superb ballad interplay that does not need heavy internal fury, just the delicacy of the lines and that inner musical talk. Pure beauty as Friesen gets totally immersed and talks with the piano. This is a conversation no matter who is leading.
This ballad talk continues with a bit more plodding movement on "Everything We Are" with the theme and lyricism of a ballad underlined by Friesen's bass almost taking the lead, deferring back, and them taking over. These are songs that flow, sometimes dance even in the slowest phrasing, and particularly her,. Solid talk even with just touches of percussion. They hint at a walking rhythm. Percussion even starts there, but it is just a light swing, and then it goes full into a full swinging mood, warm and very encompassing.
The final cut is "Open Country." Goebel's piano is easy and slightly angular, leading into an almost victorious, or patriotic theme. Chords work over the light bass touches, and again Friesen works into the melody and takes the front. The percussion touches a slight beat to the chords and the extended bass solo melody. Then Goebel sails into the lyrical loving lines. This is a creative CD, more lyrical and bit less bombastic then their previous release. Some well-developed songs attesting to Friesen's writing ability and each member's understanding of the others. Really delivers a different sight to this trio than the earlier recording on Origin, which I also loved.
Packaging is a four-panel fold-over with a jewel box on the inside right panel. Cover is an original Friesen painting. Inside, the left panel has a superb engaging large picture of the trio. Under the jewel box are the credits, backed by another Friesen artwork. Back panel has Friesen art, the song list, and times. Unfortunately, the CD has only the group and CD title, no song list, times, or contact info. Binding info is big, clear, and perfect for radio, library, or reviewer retrieval.