There are few things more enjoyable than the sound of incredibly gifted musicians having an absolutely splendid time. Nick Beggs, Craig Blundell and Adam Holzman – each musical titans in their own right, of course – were all members of Steven Wilson’s live band when they jokingly formed their own “jazz club”, jamming at soundchecks and delighting in each other’s abilities.
Somewhere along the line, amiable mucking about turned into Trifecta, but the collective joy at music itself that drove those initial jams is still the beating heart of every last note on Fragments, the trio’s debut. Almost entirely instrumental, lead single Pavlov’s Dog Killed Schrodinger’s Cat aside, this eschews the aimless noodling that often colours such side-projects, in favour of short, snappy and ingenious bursts of wonky jazz fusion and mutant funk. Clean Up On Aisle Five kicks things off, all three men blazing gleefully away in a flurry of Canterbury-tinged ebb and flow. In contrast,
Check Engine Light takes the stuttering, jazz-funk route, with Holzman’s synths jabbing and swirling around Beggs and Blundell’s air-tight shuffle. From then on, all bets are off as Trifecta embark on a wildly eventful magic carpet ride, seldom repeating themselves but always giving the impression that this precise and syncopated stuff is just magically flowing from their amassed fingertips.
Fans of individual showboating will not be disappointed here, even though Trifecta’s crafted jams are rarely self-indulgent. Beggs, in particular, lets rip with some of the gnarliest and funkiest playing of his career, most notably on Auntie, which sounds like some hellish, through-the-mirror Level 42 performing a car chase soundtrack. On the cheekily-titled The Enigma Of Mr Fripp, Holzman’s menacing carnival organ appears to have a battle with his rhythmic comrades, before the whole thing morphs into angular, Van der Graaf-style chaos. The jazz quotient is cranked firmly up for the yacht rock jitters of Dry Martini, while Lie 2 Me And Take My Money veers from hazy, Lonnie Liston Smith territory to another insistent, funky pulse. The aforementioned single is the album’s true curveball. Pavlov’s Dog Killed Schrodinger’s Cat pitches Beggs’ tremulous tenor against a gorgeous, bubbling, soft rock background. Surrounded by eruptions of strident brilliance, it makes for a very pretty change of pace.
There is a humble charm to Fragments that lifts it above the vast majority of like-minded enterprises. As they flit from one infectious, hook-packed and lissom jam to another, you can almost hear its creators grinning. As, when you hear Trifecta in full flow, will you.
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