Free Time Trio
-Sometimes I Listen to Jazz-

As many people shy away from classical music, I've lived my life with an unhealthy fear of jazz. It's such a daunting form of music to get into with all the various genres, combinations of musicians, periods, famous players (or are they composers?)… where does one even begin? Free Time Trio makes the initial plunge easy for the uninitiated.

Formed while still in middle school, Free Time Trio is considered to be one of the finest high school jazz combos in the nation with various awards and accolades regularly showered upon the band and it's individual members. Andrew Kratzat has won a national award for his bass fiddle playing and heaps of prestigious recognition has gone to keyboardist/pianist David Holloway and percussionist Ben Sloan. What makes the music of Free Time Trio so accessible is that their influences often cross with that of the average music fan: classic and modern rock. These influences find their way into the interpretations of classic jazz pieces, bringing an edge and vitality not always found in recordings by more, ahem, "established" jazz musicians.

Sometimes I Listen To Jazz is the follow-up CD to their 2001 release All The Things You Are. While the previous album was a collection of "straight-ahead" jazz standards, Sometimes contains a few jazz standards but is comprised mostly of original pieces that draw from jazz and rock. The first track, "Beautiful Love", is an eleven-minute free-form composition that starts with killer piano (I'd give my left knee-cap to be able to play like that… just don't ask me to practice) while "Nothing But Itself", an original written by Kratzat, is a wild and frantic commentary of Kurt Vonnegut's "Bluebeard" with copious amounts of bass. "True Existence" was written by Holloway after listening to The Doors and is based on the number seven (although for some reason it was placed as track six). Near the end Holloway reads a piece of poetry as Jim Morrison did in "The Unknown Soldier", adding yet another dimension to this creative song. "This Is The End My Friends" is an ultra-peppy, amicable song that sounds like three friends having an animated conversation and "Visions of Lafaro" is a tribute to the legendary bassist Scott Lafaro with lots of low and mysterious bass. The solo piano number, "Old Man" and the short yet melodic and sweet "After the Gold Rush" (with bowed bass - a nice, new timbre) are based upon songs by Neal Young. In a more traditional vein is the Miles Davis classic "Milestones", although there is nothing traditional in the way this combo attacks their subject, and "Nardis" by Bill Evans and Miles Davis that opens with a challenging two-minute bass solo (that at times sounds like a sitar) before Sloan and Holloway enter to add their considerable talents to the mix.

This latest album was recorded at Monastic Chambers, a fitting studio for this energetic blend of jazz with a touch of rock. You can pick up Sometimes at Borders or at one of their many live performances at such loyal Whatzup-supporting venues as The Firefly Coffeehouse.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, July 2002.