Click here to [close]

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Alister Spence Trio - Live (Alister Spence Music, 2015) ****

By Eyal Hareuveni

Making a live recording - a really good one - is considered in Australian slang to be somewhat of a 'slippery eel’ . You need to have a good sounding space, an able sound engineer with state-of-the-art equipment, and obviously, you need the musicians to be in top form. Fortunately, the stars aligned above the Sound Lounge in Sydney, Australia on March 20, 2015 when the trio of pianist Alister Spence, double bass player Lloyd Swanton and drummer Toby Hall recorded their first live album after about twenty years of working together as a trio.

Live, the trio's sixth recording, sounds fantastic and it captures this experienced trio's essence at its best. The trio has toured United Kingdom, Canada and Japan. Spence, its leader and the composer of most of its pieces, has developed an international career in recent years, recording with Scottish sax player Raymond MacDonald, Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, American pianist Myra Melford and Swedish rhythm section of double bass player Joe Williamson and drummer Christopher Cantillo. Swanton is renowned composer and plays in another legendary Australian trio, The Necks. Hall is known for his collaborations with pianist Mike Nock.

The telepathic, tight interplay of the trio allows the three musicians to shift the dynamics instantly from thoughtful and fragile interplay to an intense and dense one, morphing abstract textures into propulsive pulses or playfully building and releasing the tension, as demonstrated impressively on “Felt”. “Brave Ghost” highlights the trio's patient manner of constructing and deconstructing Spence's cyclical melodic theme in many clever ways, alternating organically between a bluesy rhythm (with a commanding solo from Swanton), to ecstatic piano flights. 

The free-improvised “Not Everything But Enough - opening” and the following , Spence-penned “Mullet Run”, stresses the trio's expansive and open interplay. Spence adds samples and Hall alternates on the glockenspiel, and all together sketch a mysterious and subtle multi-layered texture. Their music's complex architecture is patiently fleshed out, but never settles on any pattern, pulse, or theme for more than few brief seconds, and just keep searching on and on. The trio concludes the set with “Seventh Song”, developing the moving theme in an economic and reserved manner, as if playing its skeletal outlines is enough to illuminate its profound structure.