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Trevor Dunn’s Trio-Convulsant avec Folie a Quatre - Seances (Pyroclastic)

27 October 2022

Though best known as the bassist for avant-rock weirdos Mr. Bungle, bassist Trevor Dunn has had a remarkably varied career, ranging from jazz to metal to, well, more weirdo rock. Every few years, though, he comes back to Trio-Convulsant, his threesome with guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Ches Smith – both forward-thinking musicians with exceptional careers of their own. Inspired equally by bebop and an eighteenth century French Christian cult, Seances puts the players through Dunn’s paces on a set of knotty, dynamic compositions with a new twist: the addition of Folie a Quatre, a four-piece string/winds ensemble, consisting of flutist Anna Webber (the Webber/Morris Big Band), clarinetist Oscar Noriega (Tim Berne’s Snakeoil), violinist Carla Kihlstedt (Tin Hat), and cellist Mariel Roberts (Wet Ink Ensemble).

Given his wide-ranging background, it’s no surprise that the bassist writes tunes that traverse genres during their timespans – hence a track like “Restore All Things,” which moves swiftly and logically through postbop jazz, ambient doom and King Crimson-esque progressive rock without breaking a sweat. Dunn and Smith make a formidable rhythm section, whether locking into a groove or falling off the free jazz rails, and their controlled chaos pushes Halvorson into splashing six-string colors she’d rarely use in her own leader projects – check out her wild work on “1733.”. The more-than-slightly skewed chamber ensemble adds its own touch of magic, sometimes holding back, as with the calm-before-the-storm “Thaumaturge*, and sometimes dominating the proceedings with swirling clouds of sound, as on “The Asylum’s Guilt.”

More of a gracefully manipulated storm than controlled chaos, Seances takes conventional instrumental approaches and whips them outside of their comfort zones, to compelling results. Dunn’s eclecticism may not result in him being any kind of household word in jazz circles, but his work with Trio-Convulsant ensures that he’ll always be part of the conversation.