Tim Rollinson Trio (Rufus Records RF092)
Review by Des Cowley
Guitarist Tim Rollinson’s eclectic career trajectory to date has tended to obscure his name from the front ranks of contemporary Australian jazz artists. He’s probably most familiar to listeners via his work with DIG (Directions in Groove), an acid jazz band he co-founded in the early 1990s. As a sideman, he’s guested with a wide variety of bands and musicians, including the Blackeyed Susans, Grant McLennan, Vince Jones, and Dave Mason. Then there are the more maverick side-projects – 10 Guitar Project, or Phillip Johnston’s Greasy Chicken Orchestra. But while Rollinson has featured on some twenty-five albums to date, You Tunes is only the second to be issued under his own name, following on from 1997’s Cause + Effect.
You Tunes is a trio outing, with Rollinson on guitar, Jonathan Zwartz on bass and Hamish Stuart on drums. The three musicians have played together, off and on, since the late 1990s, and the familiar rapport they’ve developed is heard to good effect throughout the album. The majority of the eleven tracks, aside from three brief collective improvisations, have been penned by Rollinson. The single standard, ‘I Hear a Rhapsody’, with its overly familiar melody, seems almost out of place in this context.
The brief opener, ‘Before’, sets the scene. Rollinson’s guitar luxuriates across an insistent bass line, like waves lapping on sand. Next up is ‘Coral Sea’, its clip-clop rhythms ushering in a more determined groove. There is a dreamy languor to these opening tracks, as if the musicians are creating wide open spaces, introducing stories. It’s a measure of the album’s cohesiveness that each successive track seems to ever-so-gently ratchet up the groove-factor.
You Tunes is an album that gives up its pleasures slowly. It doesn’t set out to turn heads, instead letting its laid back grooves draw you in.
The album’s standout track is ‘Lazy Circles’. Clocking in at ten minutes, it unwinds like a slow burning fuse, full of restrained urgency. Hamish Stuart lays down a steady rhythmic pulse, opening up ample space for Rollinson, whose playing is considered, thoughtful and cool throughout. Zwartz’s intricate bass lines are a highlight, the three players locking into a groove that feels timeless.
Rollinson’s playing throughout the album is under-stated. There’s nothing flashy going on here, no sudden squalls of notes, pedal effects or feedback. It’s clear the musicians are listening and responding to each other at every turn, nudging the music gently forward. There’s a cool veneer to this music, it’s full of defined edges and clean lines, like those found in a Frank Stella painting. At times – on tracks like ‘Blueprints’ or ‘White Lion Brow’ – the music conjures the late night moods of Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue, or the languid lines of Grant Green’s Idle Moments. At other times there’s a nod to guitarists Bill Frisell and John Scofield, especially on the penultimate track ‘Meniscus’, which calls to mind Scofield’s mid-period recordings with drummer Bill Stewart.
It’s only on the album’s final track, ‘After’, that the trio shrug off any last pretence at restraint, unleashing a searing and blistering improvisation, as if casually letting us know that they could play like this if they so desired.
You Tunes is an album that gives up its pleasures slowly. It doesn’t set out to turn heads, instead letting its laid back grooves draw you in. It is a record that reinforces Rollinson’s place in the front ranks of local jazz guitarists, alongside Steve Magnussen, James Muller, Carl Dewhurst, Geoff Hughes, and Aaron Flower. Thirteen years is a long time between drinks; here’s hoping we don’t have to wait that long for Tim Rollinson’s next outing.
Tim Rollinson guitar
Jonathan Zwartz acoustic bass
Hamish Stuart drums
You can get your copy from the Rufus Records website >>>>