The October Trio
New DreamSGL 1593-2
Three years after their collaboration with Vancouver trumpeter Brad Turner, Looks like it’s going to snow (Songlines), the October Trio returns as a trio with a program of originals by all three members, as well as covers of a beautiful ballad by Björk and a typically quirky yet passionate Dirty Projectors rave-up. Formed in Vancouver in 2004 when they were students in the Capilano College jazz program, the Trio has been together only occasionally because of Gaucher and then Cole moving to Toronto. But, as New Dream demonstrates, the group vibe is as strong as ever. And their music, which has always been more about communicating with their peers than polishing their jazz cred, has gained a new breadth and maturity from their work as leaders of their own bands, as well as from experiences playing with musicians on the cusp of the jazz world or outside it (Fond of Tigers, Sandro Perri and Hugh Marsh for example).
Beyond the effect of rock or hip hop rhythmic feels (always given a fine polyrhythmic lift in Dan’s remarkable drumming) and the way each song’s strong sense of melody and narrative offers the immediacy and direct access typical of popular music, this is a group that always honors the expressive freedom of jazz. Says Josh: “Of late we’ve been getting away as much as possible from writing chord symbols, and the Trio is a relatively open concept in terms of what can happen in any given song. We’ll always be the kind of musicians who play really open and free.” Evan adds: “For me this band is an exercise in experimentation and melding different musical styles. I come from way more of an old school jazz approach than either Josh or Dan, and they’re both way more plugged into contemporary music of all styles than I am. That said, I think we all have a lot in common in terms of taste and how music sounds, and we all appreciate what each other has to bring to the crazy mix.” Central in fact to the October Trio’s sound are Evan’s singing lines (even when they’re twisting/angular) and his vocal approach to articulation, absorbed from a young age studying trad clarinet with his grandfather Lloyd Arntzen. Dan comments: “The Bjork tune is a way for us to get as close as we might to having a singer, I know we all hear her voice when we play that song.”
And with this band it’s definitely about saying something, setting up dialogues with each other and with their listeners. Josh again: “The biggest thing you’ll notice about New Dream is I think we’re learning how to make ‘bright’ music that still has emotional depth. For me that has always been something really challenging. But after the sombre tone of the last record we made a conscious effort to build a body of music that had more of a bright, ‘aggressiveness’ energy. I think also we’re talking about very different subject matter than that of the last record. Snow was talking a lot about family, and loss, and was very introspective to the self. New Dream is very outward looking, dealing with the world in its current state, and trying to have a positive effect on it.” Uh, could you expand on that? “I guess we’ve found it difficult to express in words what we desire New Dream to communicate without it sounding naïve, or lacking in sincerity. Which is why we decided to avoid an artist statement in the CD. It’s not that we don’t have a clear idea – we do, but every time we try to put it on paper it either sounds cheesy, or too academic or formal, which takes away from the re-discovery of innocence or youthful energy that we feel is important to the concept of New Dream. It’s almost like you need to sit down with us, get to know us, and have us explain it to you in order for it to be made clear.”
Or, just listen to what can only be said without words.
“Since the rhythm section of bassist Josh Cole and drummer Dan Gaucher relocated to Toronto and saxophonist Evan Arntzen remained in Vancouver it was uncertain how this group would proceed to follow-up its last outing with trumpeter Brad Turner, Looks like its going to snow. To the point: with an even better album showcasing the ever-sharper chops of all three members, particularly the polyrhythmic and extremely sympathetic atmospheres crafted by Gaucher. Cole contributes three tunes including the hard-driving opener ‘1983’ which proves a focus for his relentlessly funky lines while Gaucher’s ‘Wide’ is just a gorgeous ballad for Arntzen to soar on. Covers of Bjork’s ‘You’ve Been Flirting Again’ and David Longstreth’s ‘Imagine It’ are both owned by the band in their interpretations which is all good for a group with no purist agenda but rather just pursuit of music that makes them happy to play. They are smiling on this one.” Grade: A
– Stuart Derdeyn, The Province (Vancouver)