More than almost any other genre, jazz is about personal associations and interpretation. Generally speaking, the lack of lyrics allows each listener to insinuate themselves inside these instrumental passages, adopting their wandering rhythms and melodies as their own. Archetypal artists like Coltrane, Monk and Coleman brought out an eclectic and personal innovation that has served the genre in its continual evolution over the past 60 years. For local jazz guitarist and band leader Ben Friberg, this evolution is more than just shifting sounds—it's about the natural advancement of the genre's rhythmic foundations and ideologies. And within the confines of the Ben Friberg Trio, alongside David Schwab and James Edward Crumble, Friberg speaks to the necessity of altered jazz traditions.
On "Invisible Boundary," the latest record from the band, they comb through their pop and jazz influences to create a swirling, gossamer dream of sounds, tones and patterns that seems to slowly envelop your senses. The hushed shuffle and clear rhythms that exist within these songs are familiar to anyone with an awareness of jazz convention, but the band subverts any expectations we might have going in by adapting these sounds into something inherently unique and attuned to each member's musical wavelength. There's no sense of meandering direction or aimless interplay—everyone has a clear idea of what they're doing and exudes a confident rhythmic commonality.
Combining a sort of "Kind of Blue" casualness with the pointed complexity of Coltrane's later arrangements, this record weaves a hypnotic, languid tale of jazz ingenuity and redesign. By paying homage to the entrenched idealists of the genre while also carving out their own place within this crowded landscape, the band seeks to redefine the relevance of jazz music in a modern context. Their work is spry, unforced and draws its power from a deep emotional reserve, exhibiting the kind of cavernous associations that haven't been heard in jazz for a very long time. Friberg, Schwab and Crumble maintain their own stylistic vision as they reveal the eclectic intricacy found deep within the fissures of the genre.
You can preview "Invisible Boundary" here.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.