First published in 2012. The Collins dictionary defines the unusual word ‘trichotomy’ as possessing two meanings: a noun that indicates a division into three categories; and the second in the theological sense “the division of man into body, spirit, and soul.”
The band Trichotomy, led by the smart and charismatic Australian pianist Sean Foran (above centre), has come of age with Fact Finding Mission. They are not overly concerned with numbers contrary to definition, and then again you suspect theology is hardly a concern of this band either.
Yet the band’s mathematically inclined name, in another sense of the word to do with order theory, connects it to certain influential currents that are driving jazz forward (think Dice Factory through the filter of Vijay Iyer or “maths jazz" for convenience). But this album is not just about the often fickle zeitgeist. It builds hugely on the slightly frustrating promise of Variations, and the much more satisfying album The Gentle War, and the band has shed itself completely of primary influence, e.s.t.
Trichotomy’s approach, like e.s.t. though, has a humanity to it a world away from mathematics, and there’s a realisation with the choice of the spoken word segments on the title track that some people in power are just plain wrong and even dangerous, hence the voice of what sounds like George W. Bush sampled. This band are as natural as rain: they can’t help it, and that’s the strength of an outfit that allows their musical ideas to convert abstractions into emotion.
It’s drummer John Parker who opens up the album with a solo on ‘Strom’, and Foran comes into his own on the lovely ‘Lullaby’. Bassist Patrick Marchisella starts to figure on the Bad Plus-like build that makes title track ‘Fact Finding Mission’ work, in tandem with Foran’s punchy left hand, and the well handled anger of the piece is paramount. Their most ambitious and in my mind successful album to date Trichotomy have added percussionist Tunji Beier, reeds player Linsey Pollak, and guitarist James Muller for this very fulfilling outing. Muller’s solo on ‘Strom’ kicks in like a Kurt Rosenwinkel epic. Something for the body, spirit, and soul after all. SG