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David Friesen: Circle of Three

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The “Three” are bassist-composer Friesen, tenor saxophonist John Gross and pianist Greg Goebel. The “Circle” represents their intricately wound musical interplay, of course, but it’s obvious that there’s also a higher significance-this is music of spiritual journey, music that contemplates the kind of impenetrable mysteries that are often represented by circular images in philosophical and religious belief systems. But this music is also optimistic, robust and utterly unpretentious, fraught with the thrill of anticipation and the sense that the players are embarked on the joyous mission of setting and then solving challenges.

Some of those challenges are in the melodies. “Song for Tristan,” for instance, is taut and brisk, hinting at bop-like angularity but avoiding cliché. Friesen negotiates his way through the labyrinth with disarming effortlessness; Gross, in contrast, caresses, limns and rides the contours with a cyclist’s ease. Goebel is spikier: His percussive two-handed interplay occasionally breaks into unexpected, abrupt silence; he then leaps back into the dance.

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