Trichotomy – To Vanish
(Earshift Music – Review by Bruce Lindsay)
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Six years after the release of Known/Unknown Trichotomy, the Australian piano/bass/drums trio formed in 1999, returns with studio album number eight, To Vanish. The title might be a nod to the six-year gap between releases and the apparent disappearance of this innovative and entertaining outfit, who knows, but Trichotomy does have something of a history of seemingly vanishing, having left a four-year gap between the releases of albums six and seven. That’s not to suggest that the musicians have been idle: in fact, the trio recorded the basic tracks for To Vanish in December 2019 and if collaborations and live recordings are included then this album is more like number eleven in the band’s career (early on, the trio was known as Misinterprotato, but wisely decided on a change of name).
The trio on this release – pianist Sean Foran, bassist Samuel Vincent and drummer John Parker – have been together since 2017’s Known/Unknown, Vincent having replaced Pat Marchisella for that album. Foran is the main composer, but Vincent and Parker also get writer credits. The musicians acknowledge influences such as Pat Metheny, Portico Quartet, Tord Gustavsen and John Zorn. It’s a fascinating mix but not these influences are only rarely apparent when listening to this album.
Having made the initial recordings, the trio developed the work during the pandemic, invited guest musicians to play on some of the tracks and, as Foran puts it, ‘added more layers’. Some of those layers are electronic, others come from the three guests: Danny Widdicombe on pedal steel guitar (whose collaboration with Trichotomy on 2019’s country blues Between the Lines ably demonstrates another side to the band’s talents), Nicole Tait on bassoon and Thomas Green on keyboards,. Widdicombe’s instrument is especially effective, an unusual addition to a jazz line-up but one with a wide range of sounds and the ability to conjure up a similarly extensive range of emotions – on ‘Forward Motion’ the pedal steel’s ethereal and somewhat melancholy sound contrasts with the propulsive and more assertive piano, bass and drums to create a very effective ‘additional layer’. The other tunes presented here range from Foran’s jagged, almost robotic, ‘Reassemble’ to the jolly, bassoon-led fun of Parker’s ‘Fibonacci,’ via the rattling, rough-edged arco bass intro to Foran’s funky ‘It Bodes Well.’
I’ve followed Trichotomy’s career for some years, always impressed by the band’s playing and writing and always keen to hear their latest music. To Vanish is a welcome addition to the Trichotomy discography, a shift in direction which should win new fans but not so far from the previous path that it’s likely to alienate lovers of earlier releases. Even after twenty years, this is a band still pushing itself to explore and experiment. What next, I wonder?
To Vanish is released on 24 March
21 March Watermill Jazz, Dorking
22 March The Stables, Milton Keynes
23 March Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton
24 March Birmingham Jazz at 1000 Trades
25 March Clun Valley Jazz, Bishops Castle
28 March Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton
30 March The Vortex, London