The effect of rock-informed groups like the Bad Plus and their more elegant counterparts E.S.T. are being felt everywhere. Take the Canadian Simon Fisk Trio, whose first record, Trainwrecks
, while informed by Paul Bley by way of Keith Jarrett, managed to assert a clear voice. Still demonstrating the collective strengths that made Trainwrecks
notable, group's new release, Intent
, has a stronger pop sensibility. Clearly the trio has been listening to E.S.T. and TBP, or, at the very least, those two groups have afforded the Simon Fisk Trio the liberty of blending song-like compositions with a more freely improvised sensibility.
In terms of overall approach, the trio sits somewhere between TBP and E.S.T., more refined than the former and more aggressive than the latter. "A Better Day" starts with the kind of raucous gospel reminiscent of early Jarrett compositions like "The Windup," but with more of a backbeat. Drummer Tom Foster is less bombastic than David King of TBP and, with a deft touch, far more disposed towards delicate moments, as on "You're a clever one." As much as the lyrical "Live in the ideal" retains a certain looseness and playfulness that brings to mind some of the more extended compositions of E.S.T., it also grooves along with authority. Think the dexterity of Jack DeJohnette combined with the textural aspect of Paul Motian, but with a younger player's exposure to pop music.
Pianist Chris Gestrin continues to assert references to Jarrett and Bley, but there's something of the prairies in his playing, a certain Midwestern sensibility moved a little farther north. Unlike Trainwrecks, where Gestrin contributed some of the compositions, the new disc is entirely written by bassist Fiskwith the exception of two free improvisationsand so one relies on Gestrin's playing alone to assert his voice And assert it he does, with a lyricism and litheness that never loses sight of the song's core.
Fisk may have studied with Gary Peacock, and he has a similar edge to his tone, but he is as content to sit in a groove or deep ostinato as he is to demonstrate a more experimental acuity. As much as TBP is distinctly American and E.S.T. could only come from a European impressionistic classicism, Fisk's writing is somehow distinctly Canadian, in a somewhat indefinable way that may have something to do with the inherent folksiness of tunes like "Unheard Souls" and parts of "Dropped the bomb."
The two collective improvisations continue to show a trio that speaks with a single voice, each member capable of providing impetus and following leads. And while Fisk's compositions provide clearer direction, the same interpretive interplay remains.
In some ways, as strong an effort as Trainwrecks was, Intent demonstrates an even more fulfilled group identity. Maybe it's the dominance of Fisk as the compositional voice, but Intent seems to be the perfect title for an album that is filled with design and, at the same time, an in-the-moment spirit that gives it greater life.
Visit the Simon Fisk Trio on the web.