1 August 2016

Album Review: Tori Freestone – El Barranco

Tori Freestone Trio

El Barranco

    Tori Freestone, tenor sax, violin and vocals; Dave Manington, bass; Tim Giles, drums.

Whirlwind Recordings WR4689


    Freestone is rapidly carving out a career as an original voice on tenor, taking a highly personal pathway that skirts around such mutually exclusive territories as folk, free improv and the more adventurous edge of contemporary jazz as interpreted by the likes of Ivo Neame and John Turville. This album presents a further exploration of the many possibilities afforded by the chordless trio, following on from the well-received In The Chop House and featuring the same eminently simpatico players in support. The title track is a swinging piece of free-bop, introduced by Manington’s immaculately poised bass, and showcasing Freestone’s full tone, perfect rhythmic command and effortless flow of melodic ideas; there’s a  cool, humourous feel that recalls other exploratory tenor trio recordings by Dewey Redman and (of course) Sonny Rollins. The Press Gang is a rambling rubato that builds to a plaintive climax – Identity Protection starts as a series of a powerful riffs before deconstructing into a three-way free-form dialogue, with Tim Giles demonstrating his chops and sensitivity. The trio’s handling of Arthur Altman’s All Or Nothing At All (originally dramatised by Sinatra, of course) pulls at the structure with some tricky metric shifts and provides one of the strongest examples of their joint vision, with Manington’s bass strong, sure and melodic throughout. His own composition Challenger Deep inspires Freestone into a particularly intense, powerful statement in the lower register, with a keening edge that surely derives from her interest in folk forms, before ending with an impressive protracted through-composed unison part.

    This music is finely pitched between the accessible and the challenging, as the instinctive empathy between the players allows them to veer in and out of groove and harmony at will. There’s a certain dryness to the tenor-plus-rhythm format which is counteracted by Freestone’s rich tone, and by the unpredictability of the writing  – you can never be exactly sure where any of the tracks are going to take you, and the sense of being led on a journey is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the record. The biggest surprise is saved for the end – Freestone takes to the fiddle and sings sing a traditional folk lament, taking us from jazz club to Napoleonic-era harbourside, awaiting the press gang. The live show should be riveting. 


Eddie Myer

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