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David Friesen: Four to Go

Bassist David Friesen continues to push the envelope, this time in a free-wheeling quartet meshing the talents of tenor saxophonist John Gross, fluegelhornist Gary Barone and drummer Alan Jones. Like the fabled Chet Baker-Gerry Mulligan Quartet, the absence of a chording instrument opens up harmonic as well as textural possibilities effectively probed in churning originals like “David’s Dance” and standards such as “Come Rain or Come Shine.” Here, the diatonic linearity and close counterpoint associated with Baker/Mulligan explodes outward with an approach akin to that of Ornette Coleman, circa 1960s. Everything is fresh.

Along with the thrill of dancing at the edge, there’s also a collective vision. Indeed, this is a working group. Friesen, by virtue of his compositions and helmsmanship at bass, is the formative influence. But like Coleman, Friesen encourages his colleagues to be genuine collaborators. Gross, a strikingly original tenorist, and Barone, who plays fluegelhorn with a Cherry-esque approach, sail and soar. Jones, a master colorist, is a superb melodist as well as timekeeper. Cyclonic whirlwinds such as “Upon the Swing” and deconstructions of standards like “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” put Friesen’s quartet at a cutting edge at once bold and accessible.

Originally Published