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Trichotomy: The Gentle War

Bruce Lindsay By

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The Gentle War, Trichotomy's fourth album, further establishes the Australian three-piece at the forefront of the newer generation of intelligent, thoughtful and inventive piano trios. The band brought in Brent Sigmeth—an engineer who has worked with jazzers like The Bad Plus, as well as folkies such as Ramblin' Jack Elliott—to mix the album, and the result is exceptional sound quality on all three instruments.

The Gentle War does signify a development in Trichotomy's music from its previous album, Variations (NAIM, 2010), but it's a subtle one: a little more oriented towards immediate accessibility; a little more consistently danceable. But, then, Variations was a fine album, so why mess up a good thing?

Trichotomy operates as a genuine trio, rather than a piano-plus-rhythm-section, even though most of the writing credits go to pianist Sean Foran. All three players get plenty of moments in the spotlight, and grab them, literally, with both hands. This is made clear from the album's first solo: a tough, funky one from bassist Pat Marchisella on the upbeat "Chase." The angular "Sync" showcases John Parker's snappy and assertive stick work, as well as Foran's rhythmic piano, while Parker's "Shut Up" finds the trio in a more aggressive and fragmented mood. "Cute" is just that: a fun, riffy tune, written by Parker for his young son, that resembles fellow NAIM Label band, the Neil Cowley Trio, in its cheery good humor.

It's not all upbeat danceability, though. Trichotomy has a gentler and more reflective side, as evidenced by Foran's lovely "Blues for the Space" and "Not According To Plan." "Blues" is a restrained and atmospheric number that does, indeed, feature plenty of space and shows each player's talent for controlled yet emotive musicianship. "Not According To Plan" is dominated by Foran's low-key piano and Parker's metallic percussion.

Trichotomy formed in 1999 as Misinterpretato—a name it retained in its Australian homeland until 2010. Thankfully, that tongue-twister is gone, with the neater and more descriptive Trichotomy now the band's name worldwide. It's a name worth remembering, for The Gentle War is the sound of a trio that's still in the ascendant.

Track Listing: Chase; Wrestle; Blues for the Space; The Gentle War; Cute; Sync; Shut Up; Not According To Plan.

Personnel: Sean Foran: piano; John Parker: percussion; Pat Marchisella: acoustic bass.

Title: The Gentle War | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Naim Label

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