The Australian trio Trichotomy formed in 1999 and Variations, recorded in May 2007, is the group's third albumoriginally released in Australia under the band name Misinterprotato (Jazz Heads, 2008). The band describes itself on its website as a "contemporary music trio," which is "so much more than a traditional jazz trio"a bold declaration, especially as the piano, bass, drums lineup initially suggests a very traditional jazz trio. But Variations is full of inventive, original and enjoyable music and the "is it jazz or isn't it" debate is an unnecessary distraction.
Variations features ten original pieces. Writing credits are shared between pianist Sean Foran and drummer John Parker, with "Labyrinth" listed as a group improvisation. Foran's compositions are more straight-ahead than Parker's, displaying a hard bop influence and characterized by strong rhythm and immediate and accessible melodies. Parker's tunes have a freer and more experimental feel, in both their construction and their sounddisplaying some similarities with the work of fellow Australians The Necks.
The album opens strongly with "Island of the Sun," a mid-tempo tune by Foran with powerful hard-edged playing from all three musicians. Foran's "At the Right Moment" and "Ascent" demonstrate a more lyrical and contemplative side of the band, as does Parker's "Please." By contrast, Parker's "Chunk" is a spiky, angular, tune reminiscent of the work of British bands such as Acoustic Ladyland.
The trio lineup is expanded on two tunesParker's "Start" and Foran's "Ascent." The latter benefits especially from Peter Knight's trumpet playing, which adds to the evocative atmosphere of the tune. "Start" adds strings and alto sax to the basic trio and the result is the album's finest track. The additional instruments are used sparinglythey are absent from the tune's mid-sectionbut to great effect, with the violin of Christa Powell and the viola of Bernard Hoey creating beautiful soaring patterns over the other instruments.
Rather confusingly the band continues to be known in Australia as Misinterprotato. Whatever the name, the band's repertoire is fresh and excitingand, yes, varied. Variations should be the album that propels Trichotomy to world-wide recognition.
Island of the Sun; At the Right Moment; Branching Out; Start; Ascent; Variations on a Bad Day; Chunk; Please; The Unknown; Labyrinth.
Sean Foran: piano; John Parker: drums; Pat Marchisella: acoustic bass; Christa Powell: violin (4); Bernard Hoey: viola (4); John Babbage: alto saxophone (4); Peter Knight: trumpet (5); Lawrence English: electronics (5).