No doubt, every working jazz musician and fan sidelined from the music they love during the pandemic breathed great sighs of relief once the lockdown restrictions lifted. Few recorded albums in this almost post-pandemic era capture the unleashing of pent up energy as powerfully and freewheelingly as Fault Lines, the offbeat, free jazz improvisation driven debut by the trio of drummer Dana Fitzsimons and two of the brightest lights on the Atlanta jazz scene, pianist Bill Graham and bassist Brandon Boone, who is currently touring with the Tedeschi Trucks band.
On the heels of a previous trio album The Cheap Ensemble (2017), the new trio gathered several times at Fitzsimons’ house prior to lockdown. While the synergy was immediate, the lack of live performance opportunities delayed the group’s development. Back in the studio two years later, however, the trio made up for lost time and jammed with fresh urgency – a feeling the drummer calls “raw, strong and ready to explode out of confinement.”
Their combustible energy powers forth from the get go, making the bustling, intensely percussive Graham penned opener “Slant Anagrams” the quintessential unbridled jazz piece of our time. Aside from the trio’s dynamic playing on high energy on everything from free-form jams like “Weebles Wobbles” to gentler, atmospheric expressions a la the hypnotic, slow burning “Crystals,” the constantly adventurous collection is remarkable for Graham’s dominant first-rate composing (six of the 11 tracks, including the moody “Ice Bridges Before Road” and the fiery, piano pounding “Intersections”) and the trio’s unique ways of paying homage to departed chief influences Chick Corea, Paul Motian (via a brooding, soulful re-imagining of his tune “It Should Have Happened Long Ago”) and Keith Jarrett (via a trio arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s “Amelia” that reflects the legendary keyboardist’s classic Standards Trio).
Sometimes when projects are billed as “freestyle jazz,” it means more of a fun, artsy player’s album that listeners will have a hard time digging into. Thanks to these tasteful, often lyrical and melodic pieces, Fault Lines, while offbeat at times, is engaging from start to finish.