by Phil Sandford
Trichotomy have just returned from a tour of the UK to promote their new album, Fact Finding Mission, regarded by the trio’s pianist Sean Foran as the band’s strongest recorded work.
Formerly known as Misinterpretato, the band also includes bassist Pat Marchisella and drummer John Parker. Five of the tracks are written by Foran and three by Parker.
‘This CD is probably one of our most ambitious recordings because we have some guest artists and we are using some more complex material than usual,’ Foran says.
‘We were very familiar with the material before we went into the studio and most of the tracks were first or second takes. We had plenty of time to record and you can hear the relaxed and cohesive sound on the CD.’
There are a lot of different sounds and styles on the album, from the gentle ‘Lullaby’ to the Middle East-tinged ‘Brick by Brick’. Guitarist James Muller, percussionist Tunji Beier and bass clarinetist Linsey Pollak add to the variety.
‘There were two pieces, “The Blank Canvas” and “Civil Unrest”, that felt like they needed a guitar,’ Foran says, ‘and we thought that the way James Muller plays would be perfect, that his attack and energy would really lift it. He was awesome.’
Foran adds: ‘We had some gigs with Tunji and Linsey before the recording and we explored some different harmonic and melodic ideas that came out of that and made the trio play slightly differently. It was great to try something we don’t usually do.’
Parker’s ‘Fact Finding Mission’ is about ‘the ridiculous things you hear on the news about people going on fact finding missions to solve political issues. We found some samples of quotes from US presidents to provide some commentary for the song and to interact with the music. When we play it live I trigger the samples and interact with them when I’m improvising.’
The band was formed in 1999 when the trio members were studying at the Brisbane Con: ‘We played a few gigs around the place and we enjoyed playing together. It grew from there but it didn’t become a serious professional group until 2003 when we recorded our first album, Now For the Free.’
Foran started learning classical piano when he was six and when he was finishing high school he became more interested in contemporary music and heard a little bit of jazz. ‘My dad played me a bit of Errol Garner and Dave Brubeck,’ he says. ‘I was interested but I didn’t know anything about it so I started learning some written out jazz style pieces. I wanted to find out more about improvised music and I decided to study jazz at the Con.’
At this time, his major influence was Keith Jarrett: ‘I heard him playing standards and I didn’t know that they could be that amazing, that they could be expanded in that way and you could get so much out of the harmony. Later I listened to European musicians such as Bobo Stenson, Jan Garbarek and John Taylor, and that became a strong influence on my writing and playing.’
Another influence is US pianist Vijay Iyer: ‘John and I went to the Banff Centre, a centre for the arts and dance in Canada. They have a jazz and improvising workshop there every year and Vijay Iyer was one of the ensemble tutors. I played his music in an ensemble and I had never heard anyone play that kind of music before. It really switched me on to rhythmic complexity. It was a whole new thing and I got quite excited about it. The way he approaches playing is quite separate from the jazz tradition.’
Foran wrote some songs using different time signatures under Iyer’s influence but now he feels he has found his own path. ‘There’s something about the sound of sevens and fives that have that odd kind of skip to them which I am attracted to,’ he says. ‘It’s good to write something that is more of a challenge to solo over. It’s become very comfortable for us now and it’s part of our sound to have changing meters and odd meters and to have them sound just as flowing and relaxed as the more common three and four meters.’
The band has been playing together so long that they know each other’s playing intimately: ‘We can just look at each other or play something and know that we are going to go on to a new section of the music or that the dynamics are going to rise or fall. It’s amazing how it works.
‘I also really enjoy the creativity that John and Pat bring to the music I write. They add so much through their knowledge and how they shape the band’s sound.’
Saturday May 04 8:30 pm SIMA presents Trichotomy @ the Seymour Centre, Sydney