Alister Spence, Joe Williamson, Christopher Cantillo: Curve

Pianist's trio blends dense three-way bustling with tracks where the mood is established by one player and supported by the others


Spence has led a regular trio comprising Lloyd Swanton and Toby Hall for more than two decades but the one featured here came together for the Vilnius Jazz festival in 2009 and released its first album, Begin, in 2015. It’s a multi-national unit – Spence is Australian, Williamson is Canadian and Cantillo is Swedish – and has performed in Sweden, Norway and the UK, but is less well known here than it and he deserve to be.

I first encountered Spence’s work through his association with the distinguished and adventurous Japanese pianist, composer and bandleader Satoko Fujii on albums such as Intelsat (as a duo), Bright Force (by the often ferocious quartet Kira Kira) and Imagine Meeting You Here, which features Spence conducting his own rather dark suite played by Fujii’s Orchestra Kobe, but it’s also good to hear him work in the intimate context of this piano trio.

Begin was recorded between February 2013 and October 2014 so Curve is the earliest recorded chronicle of the trio’s work. The Örnsberg Songbook tracks are brief (the longest is just under two minutes) and each acts somewhat like a sparse scene-setter for the subsequent tracks, or sometimes like a distillation of the previous track. In fact, they were all played together at the beginning of the session, then Spence decided to separate them to serve as short interludes for the album, and this has worked well.

Dense episodes of bustling equal interaction between all three musicians sit easily alongside tracks where the mood is established by one player with apposite support and comment from the others. In the bustling department, Deflect kicks off the main event very effectively, whilst pieces such as Opening, Slow Spin and Modulus develop potently haunting atmospheres.

Örnsberg Songbook 1; Deflect; Opening; Örnsberg Songbook 2; Slow Spin; Point Of Rest; Songbook 3; Modulus, Generation; Örnsberg Songbook 4; Distribution; Örnsberg Songbook 5 (58.21)
Spence (p, prepared p, pc); Joe Williamson (b); Christopher Cantillo (d, pc). Ton & Tråd, Örnsberg, Sweden, 24 February 2011.
Alister Spence Music ASM012