ORGANIZED FREEDOM: At the Lily Pad, the October Trio married Ornette-ish freedom with Dirty Projectors pop.
Across the river in Inman Square, the Vancouver band the October Trio were at the Lily Pad in the middle of barnstorming the Northeast — a couple of shows in New York, a stop in Cambridge, and then up to the Montreal Jazz Festival. Rushing from Eigsti's show, I found the trio — tenor-saxophonist Evan Arntzen, bassist Josh Cole, and drummer Dan Gaucher — in full boil. The band's latest CD (their second) is Looks like It's Going To Snow (Songlines), with trumpeter Brad Turner, and it was difficult to anticipate how they would sound without the delicate weave of two lead voices. But here was a clearer picture of who they are. Although leaning heavily on "free" jazz and the inspiration of early Ornette Coleman's folklike tunefulness, they have their own sharp way of writing. (Cole initially did all the composing, but now every one chips in.)
A tune like "1983" is built on a funky bass ostinato, the tenor playing against it with widely spaced intervals, the drums providing extra agitation. The layering of opposing rhythmic patterns — dense and spare, tight and free — and Arntzen's patience in building beguiling melodies from a simple starting point all contribute to the October Trio's charm. Cole's "New Dream" alternated 7/4 and 6/8 in odd-length phrases. His approach to time, and the band's "chordless" instrumentation, also suggested that beautiful place: groove and tonality are apparent but finally ambiguous, mysterious. And everything has a hook — usually a melodic/rhythmic fillip or another.
The band's personal charm doesn't hurt. Arntzen has a tendency to break out in a sunny grin when one of their vacuum-suck syncopations pops. Their friend James Wylie — whom they met at Alberta's Banff Center and who, "now a Bostonite," helped set up the Lily Pad gig with his own band following them — joined the Octobers for one of the quartet tunes from Looks like It's Going to Snow. And, with typical naughts jazz eclecticism, the trio finished with Dirty Projectors' "Imagine It," whose knotty theme took on a bebop cast. It ended with the band singing, a cappella, and with appropriate dramatic rests: "If you can. Imagine. It. Imaaa-gine it!"
Across the street, I was just in time for the end of the final set of the BC Quintet at Ryles. That would be guitarist Björn Wennås and singer Carmen Marsico, who are most familiar these days from the Italian-folk band Newpoli, which Marsico leads with fellow vocalist Angela Rossi. Wennås and Marsico have led one version or another of the quintet since about 2003. In the 35 minutes or so that I caught, you could hear why they've stuck with it — aside from giving the married couple another chance to work together.