The October Trio is a group that has been built by students from Canada's Capilano College Jazz Program in Vancouver, BC. They have two previous releases, however, Looks Like It's Going To Snow is augmented with Brad Turner on trumpet and flugelhorn. Turner has a long established career in Canadian jazz and brought his experience to the group in a "mentor" type of role. The music was specifically written for this quartet format, and Brad produced this release. Bassist Josh Cole is their primary composer, with the others contributing a few tracks and collaborating. Evan Arntzen handles tenor sax duties, while Dan Gaucher handles drum duties. Generally speaking, this is a traditional jazz release with some rock and experimental influence.
The CD opens with a nice mid-tempo piece featuring a harmony melody on trumpet and sax (Brad Turner and Evan Arntzen). There is also plenty of activity going on with the drums and bass (Dan Gaucher and Josh Cole) as they lay down a groove amongst complex timing. After an initial, melodic introduction, sax and trumpet split off into improvisation. What impresses me is the way they are able to maintain some continuity within the improvisation, definitely showing that both musicians are listening to each other - seemingly complementing each other. Primary group composer Josh Cole is featured with a bass solo about two-thirds through the piece. Some of the fret noise on the acoustic bass is distracting at times and should have been addressed in some fashion (either performance or production). I understand that this may have been done to maintain some "live" feel to the recording, but again, the fret noise is distracting. I would hope this isn't typical of Cole's sound.
"Found" opens with a nice bass line from Josh before the others join in. Another mid-tempo piece with haunting melody, Brad is the first to step out with a solo, with just a hint of Miles Davis' style trumpet work sprinkled in. Evan's sax comes back in with some nice backing to help reinforce the chord progression, prior to taking his own solo. I like the choices Evan made. He seems to have his own style while showing influence from traditional jazz. I think this is a stronger piece, but can see why it wasn't an opener - very slow groove feeling.
"Springs" has a rock-influenced, steady beat, with the bass laying down a steady foundation. Brad and Evan share the melody again and just when it starts sounding like the previous two pieces, they break off into separate parts. Brad takes some solo time, while Evan does a nice job of providing a foundation for the chord progression. Dan shows some very tasty drumming on this piece, with a great combination of both rock and jazz drumming styles. Josh does a good job at keeping this piece grooving and sticks to a somewhat standard rock bass line (which also leaves room for Dan to wander around the beat a bit). Evan certainly shows off some sax skills on this track.
"Flip" is a short interlude piece that is pure avant-garde and would be construed as chaos by the casual listener. Almost like a piece based on a "trash can" ending for a typical song - just a weird piece, which I'm not sure had any specific arrangement to it.
"Give" opens with only Evan and Brad sharing a melody together. Very nicely arranged for the trumpet and sax. Then, bass and drums alone introduce the slow tempo of this piece before the primary melody is introduced by sax and trumpet. Evan takes the initial solo and continues to impress me with his style. Some nice bass work in the background on this one, while Dan does a nice job keeping the drums understated yet interesting.
"Stutter Step" is another short piece that mostly sounds designed to give the drums and sax a chance to improvise. Josh works his bass to keep things together, while also improvising where possible. Brad isn't on this piece and it does give the trio a chance to shine. I liked it, and it did (again) remind me of some of the Miles Davis experimental era improvisations. It would be interesting to hear this piece extended in a live performance.
"Looks Like It's Going To Snow" opens with a melodic bass line and drums quietly setting a mid- tempo pace. This continues to build for the first couple minutes before sax and trumpet join in with alternating melodies. A great example of what I like about jazz, as the track shows how Josh is able to write a composition that allows for both minimalistic instrumentation and complex group play.
"Bird Colony" is a group piece that borders on complete improvisation. Everyone seems to know where the tune is going, but there is a general lack of specific melody. I'd be tempted to call this a "jam" piece, based upon the writing credit being given to all members. Like some of the other shorter pieces, this one is chaotic at times.
"The Progress Suite" is the longest track (over 16 minutes) and is broken into three sections. Opening with an up-tempo bass groove, drums join in and trumpet, with sax, shortly thereafter. We get specific melody between the lead instruments, but things start to unravel musically. Drums wander off into their own territory, while sax and trumpet take to their own paths. Bass maintains the only foundation, while flirting with the chaos being created. Then, all come back together and we settle back into some solid melodic tradeoff between sax and trumpet. About half way through, drums drop out and bass slows the tempo down. We get a chance for Josh to quietly and slowly float around a progression, while Evan and Brad exchange melodies. At one point, we are left with just Brad, before everyone else joins back into support. The slow tempo continues with drums and bass, and Evan gets his moment as the only lead. After the rest join in and back out, we are left with a solo moment from Josh. I'm pleased to report that the fret noise is rarely heard here, and he certainly shows to be a skilled musician. Tempo picks up, and drums come back in. Brad takes the lead, and Evan assumes a backing sax part referencing the chord changes before joining Brad. This is some of the best work on the release, in my opinion. There are points where the piece gets a tad boring, as the lack of strong melody gets a bit exhausting on the ears during this long stretch. But, they brought me back by the end.
They close out the release with "Wait," a nice, slow bass-driven piece with only quiet percussive drums added. No groove here, and Evan is featured on sax before Brad joins in with a simple melodic phrase. Just a slight nod is given to the experimental flurries heard earlier in the release. A very nice way to quietly close out this musical journey.
There's plenty here for the traditional jazz fan to like, but there are some points where they definitely would lose the casual listener. Although The October Trio + Brad Turner show great skills and promise, they may need to focus their pieces a bit more in the studio (live performances could be a completely different matter). There is mention of the trio continuing on without Brad's involvement, so I see this release as a great introduction to both artists. If they are in your area, check out either The October Trio or Brad Turner. If you can see them together, even better.
Overall, I'd give this release a 4 out of 5.