Alister Spence/Joe Williamson/Christopher Cantillo

Begin
Alister Spence Music ASM 003

By Ken Waxman

What “world music” really should be, this high-quality session involves the talents of multi-stylistic Australian pianist Alister Spence, subtle Swedish drummer Christopher Cantillo and authoritative Canadian bassist Joe Williamson. Now Stockholm-based, Vancouver native Williamson is part of this trio whose reference points are musically broad while lacking any affectation.

Constantly pushing each of the tracks forward, the pianist’s world view is as wide as the Australian outback, emphasizing attention to cultivated detail that melds Keith Jarrett’s, exploratory feints, dynamic jabs à la Cecil Taylor and the bouncy playfulness of Paul Bley, usually simultaneously. Hear this at work on “Place”, where after probing piano innards and hammering the keys, Spence unexpectedly bursts out with a textbook definition of jazz swing. Consistently a group effort though, even when Spence’s playing is at its most jaunty, his pointed improvising on “Tip” for instance is sympathetically extended with tap-dance-like clacks from Cantillo and Williamson’s bowed continuum.

Knowingly attuned to one another’s strategies, and willing to mix up the performances to make them new, Williamson for example, often uses a resolutely steady bass line to second the pianist’s widely spaced spikes and winnowing plucks on Fetch before Spence cunningly recaps his intro. Elsewhere, as on “Allow”, each rhythm partner uses static drum buzz or string pulls to create edginess on this warm balladic track. Other times as cymbals swirl and drum tops are scrubbed Spence and Williamson expose nearly identical timbres, balancing inside-piano string strums and unforced bass string plucks.

With even more unexpected approaches they can utilize on this disc’s lucky13 tracks, the hope is that this trio didn’t just Begin but will continue to make CDs like this for a long time.

—For The Whole Note June 2015