Bassist/composer David Friesen's recent 2-CD volume contains almost two hours of consistently excellent music. The music is taken from three sources, a studio session (in Germany) and two live performances (in Tempe and Portland). Ten of the nineteen total selections were done by Friesen's "Circle 3 Trio" from the studio session and the Portland concert, while special guest Larry Koonse joined the trio on guitar for the nine selections representing the Tempe concert.
The common thread for all nineteen selections is the writing of Friesen, whose melodies and musical structures have an innovative spirit, making use of modern harmonies and time conceptions, and requiring dedicated listening to best appreciate them. A good place to start for a traditional listener might be two blues pieces, "Left Field Blues," an inventive blues line with a Monkian flavor, and "Blue 10," a swinging blues cleverly truncated to ten bars. Serving as strong openers for the two discs, "Playground" and "Stepping Stones" both generate verve and a sense of forward propulsion with their use of Latin-based rhythms in 5/4 and 7/4 time, respectively. A contemplative character is ever-present in Friesen' music, as illustrated by "Green Hills Slowly Passing By," "Dark Resolve," and "Reaching For the Stars." Repeated listening is merited for other pieces with more complex time conceptions such as "A Road Less Travelled" and "Overland," while vehicles suggesting a simpler and more optimistic view include "Sailing," "Song for Ben," as well as waltzes "Dance With Me" and "My Dance." The performances by everyone including Friesen are superior throughout, as evident on the up-tempo "Zebra," which opens with drummer Charlie Doggett setting a brisk swinging pace soon joined by Friesen, and followed by top-tier solos from pianist Greg Goebel and guitarist Koonse.