The October Trio crafts a clever New Dream
New Dream (Songlines)
Comparisons are odious, but they’re also damned useful. So bear with me while I suggest that New Dream has a lot in common with bassist Dave Holland’s Conference of the Birds, a desert-island disc for me since its 1973 release.
This is high praise.
It’s intentionally flattering, too, to say that the October Trio’s Vancouver-based label, Songlines, is pretty much a contemporary version of ECM, the imprint that issued Conference and many other progressive classics. Like ECM’s Manfred Eicher, Songlines owner Tony Reif is on the lookout for artists that can blend improvisational freedom with compositional acuity, and on that count the members of the October Trio don’t disappoint.
Whether penned by reedman Evan Arntzen, drummer Dan Gaucher, or bassist Josh Cole, the band’s tunes tend to start out with a singable melody, which is then spun through successive cycles of variation until it bears only a faint resemblance to the original. These are musicians who are not afraid to go “outside”, but their process is so smart, and so measured, that most listeners will have no difficulty hanging on for the ride.
Holland, Anthony Braxton, Sam Rivers, and Barry Altschul did much the same thing on their earlier classic. What they didn’t have, though, was Björk’s body of work to draw on, and the version of “You’ve Been Flirting Again” that closes New Dream is proof positive that these dreams are new and not just an elegant reprise of the past.
The October Trio plays a free show at Performance Works at 1:30 p.m. on Friday (June 29), as part of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival.