Roller Trio Fracture
(Lamplight Social LSRCD001 CD Review by Jonathan Carvell)
Roller Trio first burst forth with their eponymous 2012 Mercury-nominated album, which for some would prove a tough act to follow, but their new record Fracture is even better. The trio’s style has evolved and matured, and whilst their trademark eclecticism remains unabashed, the material now has a stronger sense of unity and cohesion. This is a thoroughly convincing album; intense and often dark, yet irresistibly fun. Fracture opens with the taut funk of Reef Knot, but as soon as the initial material has been established it’s pulled in different directions: the simple becomes more complex, and the consonant becomes more dissonant until a soaring chorus melody explodes from the tension – saxophonist James Mainwaring leading the line.
Prefaced by guitarist Luke Wynter’s effect-drenched Low Tide, High Tea draws on Indian musical influences, with modal exoticism, melodic arabesques and a brutal 5/4 groove. Luke Reddin-William’s drumming is particularly good here – providing unity through recurring fills and hooks, building intensity, sitting back when necessary, and always alert and ready to latch on to the next idea. Mainwaring’s saxophone has a broad palette of colours and is as much at home in frantic passages of angular semiquavers as chilled-out slow jams. And that’s the thing about Roller Trio; they are as convincing in cool, spacious ballads such as Tracer, as they are in manic tunes such as 2 Minutes to 12.
Splinter is one of the highlights of the album. The melody here is irresistible and it’s combined with an intricacy of construction and execution that few groups come close to. The trio get a great deal from their three instruments. As with Splinter, in Three Pea Soup, Wynter’s guitar flits between bass, harmony and melody instantaneously – giving the impression of four players (if not more). Fracture is a great ride through Roller Trio’s vivid and engaging world. This is a marker laid down by a group operating at the vanguard of contemporary jazz. Undaunted by complexity and dissonance, but at the same time not afraid to write a beautiful melody, Roller Trio make the case for challenging, relevant jazz which, more than anything, is hugely enjoyable.