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Refraction: The Outsider

Mark Sullivan By

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Australian trio Refraction recorded this album just before drummer and bandleader Chris Broomhead's relocation to Nashville, Tennessee (which is now given as the group's home city on their Bandcamp page). As on the last two albums, Inerrant Space (Rare Colour Records, 2016) and Reimagined (Rare Colour Records, 2017), Broomhead is joined by pianist Brenton Foster and bassist Jordan Tarento.

There is one major change for this album. The previous ones were all recorded in a traditional recording studio. This was recorded in a church (Balwyn Gospel Chapel), with the intention of using the space to create a more expansive mood and ambience. The title tune opens the set, and immediately establishes a broader, purposeful pace, with its opening piano chords ringing in the air before being joined by double bass (doubling the theme) and drums. Then a surprise timbre, as a short overdubbed fuzz bass solo concludes the first section. The calm opening recurs throughout the tune, punctuating more active trio improvisation.

"Whiskey In Orleans" was the single released prior to the full album. Introduced by the drums, its lyrical funk justifies the title without straying too far from the melodicism and easy swing that characterizes the group's approach. "Closer Still" is a lovely ballad that eases in gradually—almost a piano solo—Broomhead atmospheric with brushes, Tarento sparse until his own memorable solo. "Return" has a pop-influenced melody reminiscent of material on the earlier albums. But it still makes room for a harmonically adventurous second section, which surprises by ending the tune (no reprise of the opening theme). It leads into "Trio Improvisation," a short atmospheric bit of rubato exploration.

The new looseness is perhaps best demonstrated on "Tacit Green." The longest track, it begins with a long, textural drum solo. Joined by the bass, the duo duet until the piano finally joins in, finally bowing out to leave the duo to end the piece on their own. "Evensong" gives Tarento the opportunity to display his excellent arco technique, singing the theme in tandem with the piano. It may be reading too much autobiography into it (given Broomhead's recent U.S. relocation), but "Stateside" (written By Brenton Foster) brims with energy and excitement: a fine upbeat ending to the program.

The trio was clearly inspired by recording in a large, acoustically live space. They responded with a new openness and flexibility, while still retaining the influences of jazz, pop melody and improvisation. Hopefully they will continue down this path in the future.

Track Listing: The Outsider; Chrysalis; Whiskey In Orleans; Closer Still; Return; Trio Improvisation; View; Tacit Green; Evenson; Were You Awake?; Stateside.

Personnel: Chris Broomhead: drums; Brenton Foster: piano; Jordan Tarento: double bass.

Title: The Outsider | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Rare Colour Records

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