Trichotomy, Tuesday 22 February 2011, Band on the Wall, Manchester.

In the more intimate table setting of a Tuesday night at Band on the Wall, the much fêted Australian trio Trichotomy made their first foray into the north-west’s jazz community and before a well versed audience, contributed to a lovely, laid back evening dissecting the art of the piano jazz trio. Throughout the evening the trio would shift tempo several times within a piece, creating in the process layers of space for the soloists in which to shine. During the first half the three constituent parts did operate separately at times and bassist Pat Marchisella impressed above all, frequently taking solos to wonderful effect and creating new riffs from the initial theme. One of the most distinctive numbers performed was ‘Cute’, a John Parker composition, with impressive oscillating tempos and latinesque comping from Foran. Parker’s own considerable polyrhythmic percussive skills were demonstrated here and the drum solo dovetailed beautifully into the ensemble playing.

Elsewhere minimalist piano riffs from Sean Foran directly led into pieces taken largely, though not exclusively, from the excellent new album ‘Culture ‘ and the empathy between the trio members was immediately apparent, particularly between bassist and pianist who revelled in each other’s company. In particular keyboardist Sean Foran comes across as a studious disciple of both the early 1970s acoustic Chick Corea sound and the bluesier side to Herbie Hancock with Keith Jarrett thrown into the mix and delighted the audience with gentle piano comping, solos and witty banter that immediately endeared him to all listening. He excelled on ‘Not according to plan’ taking a lengthy solo in the intro and using the inside of the piano to embellish the sound with additional percussion. However, even on this seemingly melodic piece, just beneath the surface, there was a good deal of experimentation going on.

Everything came together as a cohesive whole in the second half of the evening when the ensemble playing became more confident and they were truly in full swing. This was illustrated on the churchy, gospel-infused hues of ‘The gentle war’ with a cascading bass riff from Marchisella, betraying possibly the influence of Eddie Gomez on his playing, and creating a drone-like sound. The bass riff continued while Foran set off on another solo, ably supported by the ever inventive John Parker who played hand drum style on the main drum kit.

On some of the more freer pieces, which were in parts untempo and chaotic, the trio were always capable at any moment of returning immediately to the main theme and displayed both an historical awareness and contemporary mastery of the trio format which they constantly sought to challenge and indeed expand the boundaries of. This is a trio that has not yet reached its zenith, far from it, and it definitely needs the regular live setting in which to truly hone Trichotomy’s undoubted talent. Out of this, they are more likely to produce stronger self-penned compositions that will attract a larger audience. It remains to be seen whether they will replicate the success of the Esbjorn Svensson trio who achieved the virtually unprecedented feat of appealing to fans outside jazz with their indie-rock approach and attitude. Trichotomy in this respect are not exact equivalents and it would be unfair to judge them accordingly. However, they are a trio of considerable talent and given time will extend their appeal. At the end of the evening’s performance, the band were happy to chat with concert goers and promote their repertoire. An ideal way for the audience to interact with band members. All in all a relaxed and very enjoyable evening of fine contemporary piano trio jazz.

Tim Stenhouse