CD Review: Tori Freestone Trio- In the Chop House

Tori Freestone Trio- In the Chop House
(Whirlwind Recordings WR4648. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

There’s no shortage of chops in saxophonist Tori Freestone’s new CD In the Chop House. This trio album with the excellent Dave Manington (double bass) and Tim Giles (drums) is fronted by Freestone’s opulent tenor tone. She’s been touring all over Europe and working with the likes of Ivo Neame and Jim Hart, and now it’s good to hear her own trio.

Three of the tracks are by Freestone, some openly referring to other sax players. Pottering Around nudges us towards Chris Potter, with its risky restless motifs and huge leaps that seem to glance off the bass notes, and loose-limbed funky drumming- Giles’ solo is acrobatic. The bass solo is incredibly rhythmic and you can hear lots of the wiry natural sound of the instrument.Mrs PC points to Coltrane, but its insouciant funkiness makes you think of Ornette Coleman, with a theme that roosts in the brain- in a good way. Freestone often recalls Joe Lovano on this album. There’s a pleasantly scratchy edge to her sound here, as well as the rich tone. Both these pieces are in 7, as is The Universal 4 (is 7 the new 4?). The bass plays major/minor notes behind a repeated sax riff, and the ear fills in the harmony slightly differently every time- part of the fun. It’s a sunny piece with a Rollins-ish calypso feel, and almost melodic drumming. Freestone’s solo is thoughtful and then hoarsely articulate, with intervals that jump up and surprise you.

Manington’s Lonesome George is more boppish with a bluesy bass and sax head, before it melts into a free section with an unbelievable array of drum textures. Shreds of sax and bass melody fly out between drum fills. Jez Franks’ Bubble and Squeak has double-stopped pizzicato bass, delicate drum ‘n’ bass textures from Giles, and tottering bar lengths. Freestone mixes flitting arpeggios and Coltrane-esque vibrato with virtuosity and mischief.

There really is a Chop House in Manchester where Freestone rehearsed with Neil Yates’ big band, and was inspired to return partly to her folk roots. As a child, she sang and played folk violin with her family. She opens My Lagan Love-in the Chophouse with sax trills like uilleann pipes. Freestone’s sound is smoothly Getz-like, free over bass pedal, bells and mallets on toms thundering gently in the distance. Both Sides Now, with its serene folk edge, is her tribute to Joni Mitchell, who was a huge influence.

But Not For Me is the only standard, and the familiar song highlights how original Freestone is. There’s a friendly tug of war across the bar lines; it’s in 5/4, and the tune’s phrases play hide and seek with the listener, appearing in unexpected places. Manington’s bass strides across the tenor’s rising lines, creating beautiful harmonies.

Tori Freestone is a great communicator, and a there’s playfulness among the serious chops. ‘We’re able to push our own boundaries,’ she says, ‘while having the knowledge that we can rely on each other.’ The musicians have a strong rapport, honed since student days, and listening is pure pleasure- that delicious tenor sound…

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