by Ian Mann
July 24, 2016
Enjoyable, intriguing and stimulating and a beguiling taster for the trio's work. Casey Golden would appear to be one of the brightest and most original young talents on the Australian jazz scene.
Casey Golden Trio
The Casey Golden Trio is a group of young musicians from Sydney, Australia. Led by pianist and composer Casey Golden the trio also features bassist Bill Williams and drummer Ed Rodrigues.
Born into a musical family in Sydney Golden studied music at the University of New South Wales as well as visiting London to work with British musicians as part of the BBM Jazz Award scheme. He released his début solo album “Clarity” in 2010 and began working with his current trio shortly afterwards.
Williams and Rodrigues both studied music at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra where they became one of that city’s most in demand rhythm sections. On moving to Sydney they linked up with Golden and the trio have since released two full length albums, 2015’s studio recording “Outliers” and the concert set “Live At Bennetts Lane”, captured at the famous Melbourne jazz club and issued in the same year. Both of these albums were extremely well received by the Australian jazz press and there’s currently a bit of a buzz about the Casey Golden Trio who look well placed to be the next Australian piano trio to make an international breakthrough, following in the steps of The Necks and Trichotomy.
The trio’s sound is highly contemporary and draws upon many sources and influences. Golden was classically trained and the influence and discipline of classical music, particularly that of Bach, is readily apparent in his writing and playing. Rock music, both contemporary and historic, also informs the trio’s music while the impressive list of acknowledged jazz influences includes pianists Robert Glasper, Vijay Iyer and Aaron Goldberg, bassist Avishai Cohen and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. It’s also a characteristic of the trio’s releases that they feature striking artwork. “Outliers” and “Bennetts” featured images by Marvel Comics artist Ron Frenz while “Miniature” showcases the work of the talented artist Glenn Smith aka Glenno.
“Miniature” is the trio’s first excursion into the world of extended composition and features a single Golden piece subdivided into four parts. The leader deploys both acoustic and electric keyboards and the sound palette is further expanded by the presence of special guest Daniel Walsh on guitar.
Part I begins with the eerie tinkling and twinkling of a music box operated by Golden. The leader then moves to piano, with a repeated single note forming the basis for the music that follows as the trio, plus Walsh, gradually develop the music in layers. Golden picks out a melodic motif while Rodrigues’ snare tattoo temporarily turns the tune into a march before Walsh’s guitar briefly soars.
Although focussed around a core motif there’s a lot going on with this music as it alternates between classical rigour, rock like song structures and more expansive jazz improvising. A passage of highly rhythmic solo piano leads to a concluding section featuring a powerful rock groove coloured with a dash of synthesiser from the leader before the movement resolves itself with the return of the sound of the music box. It’s very contemporary and very distinctive.
Golden’s gently rippling piano arpeggios introduce Part II, these leading to a passage featuring Williams’ double bass, accompanied only by the sound of Rodrigues’ cymbal scrapes. The bass motif that Williams establishes forms the basis for the collective improvisations that follow with the trio members exhibiting an admirable lightness of touch and quickness of thought. The latter half of the piece finds the trio building momentum once more with semi classical motifs interspersed by powerful grooves. Towards the end Walsh also enters the proceedings with his guitar again briefly taking flight.
“Interlude” establishes a circling piano motif with Rodrigues adding almost subliminal support. The initial piano sound is slightly odd, and almost sounds as if it may have been ‘prepared’. Golden embellishes the repeating pattern he has established with a dash of more orthodox pianism plus the return of the music box which helps to provide the bridge into the closing “Part III”.
Here the trio up the energy levels once more with Golden’s insistent piano motif again the driving force. Linking back thematically to the opening movement Rodrigues drumming again takes a military turn while Walsh’s guitar floats airily and provides a vivid splash of colour. A hard driving closing section again features Golden doubling on electric keyboards before the EP comes full circle to finish, almost inevitably, with the sound of the music box.
With its mix of jazz, rock and classical elements “Miniature” is an enjoyable and distinctive piece of work. Besides the influences mentioned by the band themselves I was also reminded at times of the work of minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Terry Riley and also of the music of two of the biggest names in 21st century piano jazz, The Bad Plus and the now sadly defunct E.S.T., the latter having been particularly popular in Australia where their final albums were recorded.
I found “Miniature” to be enjoyable, intriguing and stimulating with the EP format serving as a beguiling taster for the trio’s work. I’d like to hear their full length recordings and I’d also be keen to witness the group in a live environment should they feel themselves able to visit the UK at some point in the future. On this evidence Casey Golden would appear to be one of the brightest and most original young talents on the Australian jazz scene.