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Jazz Reviews : David Friesen Trio at Catalina’s: State of the Art

The variety of material it performs, and the versatility of the participants, gives the David Friesen Trio (heard Tuesday at Catalina’s) a singularly engaging character.

Playing for a small but select audience that included his sister, Dyan Cannon, Friesen performed during most of the set on a French acoustic bass, made in 1795. For three numbers, two of which he played unaccompanied, he switched to the Oregon bass. This almost bodiless instrument uses reverb and digital delays that enable him to play a bowed solo while sustaining chords and sounding like a one-man orchestra.

Friesen, however, is no gimmick artist. His “Amazing Grace” on the Oregon bass used this contemporary technology to emotionally stirring effect, capturing a pristine quality redolent of the early blues days.

On the regular bass he displayed a similar blend of facility and invention, mostly in his own tunes such as “David’s Dance” and the West Indian-flavored “Festival Dance.”

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Friesen has an extraordinary partner in Phil Dwyer. This 22-year-old musician from Vancouver, B.C., began on tenor sax in an energetic John Coltrane bag with touches of straight-ahead fire. For the third and fourth numbers he played piano (he was, in fact, an 8-year-old piano prodigy). His version of “Manha de Carnaval” was marked by a surging intensity in the right hand while the left supplied fierce punctuations mostly in and above the center of the keyboard. Later he switched back to tenor sax and wound up offering Bill Evans’ “Blue in Green” on soprano sax.

Completing this state-of-the-jazz-art group was Alan Jones, a capable 25-year-old Vienna-based drummer. Jones was featured in his own composition, a somewhat arch, Mingus-like piece.

The trio sagged in interest only when it became a duo. One passage when Friesen sat out, and another when Jones fell silent for a couple of minutes, proved how heavily this unit depends on the togetherness of its components and on the incredible solo virtuosity of its director. It’s too bad the group was booked for only Tuesday and Wednesday nights (Cedar Walton opens this evening); Friesen deserves more extensive local exposure.


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