DANA FITZSIMONS — Fault Lines (review)

DANA FITZSIMONS — Fault Lines album cover Album · 2022 · 21st Century Modern Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
js
I had just finished listening to a large part of the Paul Bley discography when the “Faultlines” CD by Dana Fitzsimmons showed up in the mail. Call it coincidence or divine intervention if you will, but the similarities to Dana’s album and a typical album by Bley were striking. Here you have artists that are both just as at home with a lyrical ballad as they are with pure exploratory improvisation, as well as artists who know how to freely improvise in ways that are subtle and attractive to a wide variety of listeners. In Fitzsimmon’s press release, Bley is not mentioned as an influence, but other contemporaries of his are, including Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett, but most importantly to Dana as a drummer, the music and drumming of Paul Motian figures prominently on this album. Joining Dana for this outing is pianist Bill Graham and Bassist Brandon Boone. This is not a typical jazz album on which the rhythm section acts only as support, instead all three musicians interact equally in a constant three way conversation. Much of this music is freely improvised, but it is still mostly tonal and rhythmic, but at the same time, very loose and unpredictable. This is Dana’s album, but Graham’s piano work is one of the most salient features on the album with his often relaxed swinging right hand figures that recall Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau, and Bill also wrote many of the tunes on the album too.

The band engages in Tristano styled brainiac bop on “Slant Anagrams” and “Number Six”, and rocks out some on “Borders”, which closes with Graham playing Brubeck style block chords in stubborn repeating rhythms against Dana’s free drumming. The trio gets more avant-garde on “Weeble Wobbles” and “Intersections”, but contrasts that with a fairly straight ahead reading of Richard Rogers’ “Where or When”. Much of the rest of the album centers around rather abstract and spacious moody pieces that aren’t typical ballads, but lean in that direction. The trio closes with Joni Mitchell’s “Amelia”, which picks up a sort of Neil Young flavor with Dana’s lazy but pronounced snare backbeat and Bill’s country flavored piano work. Musically, “Fault Lines” is brilliant, but the production could use a little better focus and clarity, especially on Brandon’s bass and Fitzsimmon’s cymbals, but this is a minor complaint really, overall this album is highly recommended for fans of today’s post-post bop.

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