I have a number of 70s and early 80s chamber, quasi-chamber, and avant-chamber jazz LPs that get a LOT of play on my turntable: Burton, Coryell, Oregon, and so on, and I really liked David Friesen's sides back then (and still do), especially with John Stowell, because Dave's bass work stood so clearly out within the trio formats he tended towards, excavating rich interplay within intriguing spaces, reifying the instrument to an equal voicing with other participants. Waterfall Rainbow, Through the Looking Glass, Storyteller, Star Dance, Inner Voice, and others—maaaaaan, were those great slabs! Thus, not having picked up his output for quite a while, I was a touch wary when receiving this latest from the guy. Had he sold out and gone jazz lite on us? That old literate eloquence, had it survived the decades? His absorbing post-bop semi-neoclassical attitude, was it still there? I worried as I tore away the shrinkwrap and tossed the disc in the player.
Well, I needn't have invested so much paranoia in my cerebrations 'cause this is a really fine outing finding Freisen companioned by about as consummate a set of kindred spirits as ever he's recruited. One of the few qualitative differences is that his bass isn't always quite as front stage as it used to be, though ever detectable and as inventive as back in the heyday. Painting the Blues, for one, gives him a rostrum on which to expound, and the result is marvelous. There are so few bassists who wring as much out of the instrument as he does, and the axe he's using, the Hemage electric upright, is an astonishing instrument, the perfect cross between acoustic and electric but vastly favoring the archetypal contrabass resonance over electric tonicities. In fact, the sound is so overwhelmingly appetizing that I'm now thinking of purchasing one.
Brilliant Heart is titled for Freisen's son, Scotty, who passed away at the much too young age of 41 in 2009, and the art shown throughout the release is his: one piece a sort of cross between Marshal Arisman and Picasso (the cover), another an arresting dimensional kineto-abstract work (the centerfold of the liner), among others. His dad's music has always been among the more ineffable bodies of work in jazz, so it's hardly surprising Scotty's would have been an unorthodox mind and spirit. Greg Goebbel mans a piano with two sophisticated hands, old pro Larry Koonse wields a boppy guitar, and drummer Charlie Doggett, frequently absent from the cuts, exhibits wondrous use of his percussives, truly remarkable discernment (start with Want of Method and go forward from there), but the sum of the whole, as is always the case with Friesen's collabs, is far greater than the figuration of its parts. He has forever tread outside the ordained paths and will never cease to do so, so you can begin with confidence from any point in his career—with this CD, with his debut, anywhere—and be dumbstruck with awe at the pure artistry of it all.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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