David Friesen Circle 3 Trio: Interaction

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I don’t think it would be unkind to describe 77-year old David Friesen as an under-sung giant of the post-bop era. Adding his considerable musical muscle to several classics in waiting from the 70s by Joe Henderson, Billy Harper and Kenny Drew, he went on to tour with Sam Rivers, Paul Horn, Stan Getz and Dannie Richmond amongst others. With the help of John Stowell and Paul McCandless he was a prime mover in a gentler and more folk-inflected brand of West Coast spiritual jazz which some would view as an antecedent of Windham Hill, but perhaps coolest of all he still makes his home in the Portland coffee house he opened in 1973.

Interaction offers two subtly different views of the Circle 3 Trio. The first presents 13 new pieces recorded in a Portland studio with regular drummer Charlie Doggett, while the second captures the band in early 2019 at Vienna’s Porgy & Bess jazz club, with Reuben Bradley stepping in for Doggett. 

The studio sound is detailed and immediate, capturing every rich nuance that Friesen wrings out of his compact custom-made Hemage bass. Opening with Neves, a Latin-tinged slow-burner propelled by Friesen’s dancing lines and chords, it’s easy to see why this one-man orchestra has made so many solo recordings. Parallels to the relaxed in/out approach of Joe Henderson’s State Of The Tenor trio come to mind on pieces like In House, Cross Fire and the title track, while Sequence is a wonderfully open, wistful ballad where Friesen switches to piano and provides a sympathetic foil for Manis’s soprano. Skip Trip and No Dollars show the trio’s harder-edged and more expressionistic side, but even here the music retains great clarity and focus.

Only Skip Trip and Flight Of The Angels are common to both sets, and with much of the extraneous ambience of the room removed the focus is very much on the music. That’s exactly as it should be, and while the Viennese set may be a tad looser and more urgent in places, you’ll find no gimmicks, no concessions to fleeting ephemera, and nothing that won’t withstand the true test of time.

Discography
CD1: Neves: Cross Fire; Sequence; Flight Of The Angels; New Tune Blue; Exclusively Yours; 1969 Rolls Royce; In House; Interaction; Soft As Silk; Skip Trip; No Dollars, No Cents; Evening Spring (61.00)
CD2: Song For Tristan; Flight Of The Angels; Skip Trip; Going Forth; At Last, At Rest; Off Centre; Distant Shores; Basic Strategy; My Faith, My Life (51.00)
Friesen (b, p) with Joe Manis (ts, ss); Charlie Doggett (d) on CD1, and Manis (ts); Reuben Bradley (d) on CD2. 17 August 2018, Portland (1), and 17 March 2019, Vienna (2).
Origin Records 82792