CD Review | Far Flung (Alister Spence Trio)

Far Flung – Alister Spence Trio
Released by Rufus Records (RF105)

CD Review by Phil Sandford

Far Flung
represents a new stage in the evolution of the Alister Spence Trio, with moments of calmness and beauty interspersed with passages where the intensity builds and builds through the use of repetition and rhythmic patterns.

There is a mixture of original compositions, free improvisations and recompositions, and Spence has achieved an overall unity through extensive sampling and overdubbing. For example, the descending echoed pattern in ‘Arc’, reminiscent of Monk’s ‘Misterioso’, finds a reflection in ‘Life-Wish’ and ‘Circumnavigate’.

The band members first worked together in Clarion Fracture Zone in the late 1980s and have worked as a trio for more than 15 years, resulting in the extraordinary empathy evident on this album.

There is a wide range of influences, from European minimalism to free improvisation, but all three artists are steeped in the jazz tradition.

The trio moved significantly from its 2000 CD Three is a Circle, which revealed an edgy, contemporary acoustic trio with sparing use of samples, to its fourth CD Fit in 2009, which was primarily a series of soundscapes. Now there is a return to some more composed pieces and the integration of the trio’s past work into a unified whole, with Toby Hall’s glockenspiel part of the band’s signature.

There are many gems in this album: carefully constructed compositions like ‘Threading the Maze’, which unfolds slowly before climaxing in multiple overdubbed lines, piano miniatures like the pastoral ‘(With) Thanks’, sections of excellent acoustic trio in several tracks such as ‘Felt’, and the influence of North Indian drumming in ‘Sleep Under Water’. There are fine solos all round, but the overall impression is of three musicians working together as one.

Far Flung demonstrates the strength of the piano trio format, which is here stretched and pulled in every way to create an intriguing mixture of sound and rhythm.

To hear Alister Spence Trio at a live gig, check Alister’s website for upcoming dates


Alister Spence: piano, music box, samples

Lloyd Swanton: double bass

Toby Hall: drums, glockenspiel


Rufus Records

Alister Spence on the web (including detailed tour information)