In 2005, West Chester University Professor Peter Paulsen released his album titled Tri-cycle. Backed by Wells Hanley on piano and Joe Mullen on drums, Paulsen creates an original modern jazz album utilizing his bass in ways that few could imagine possible. Tri-cycle is the third release by Paulsen in which he is featured as the combo leader. His previous releases include Three-Stranded Chord for jazz quintet and Curves for jazz trio which also features WCU Professor Chris Hanning on percussion and Gunnar Mossblad on saxophones.
Tri-cycle is at times reminiscent of standard jazz tunes, but with a whole new perspective. The album features original numbers written by Paulsen, and his arrangements of Matt Hochmiller’s “Motion,” Bill Evans’ “Twelve Tone Tune” and A.C. Jobim’s “Luisa.”
While some tracks possess a mellow, relaxing tone, others utilize quick-paced and often dissonant scale progressions. Paulsen and Hanley are impeccable in their timing and use of rhythm. Hanley and Paulsen carry the tunes quite well and create a full sound for a trio. The two musicians each take solo breaks throughout each track and while one carries the rhythm, the other creates an impressive and complex solo.
The fifth track, Hochmiller’s “Motion,” opens with an arco bass solo in which Paulsen creates sounds with his bass that seem characteristic of a synthesizer. The melodic, yet dissonant intro of “Motion” makes it one of the most memorable pieces on the album.
Paulsen’s original composition titled “Wren-owned Lady” kicks off the album with a mellow tone that is not always characteristic of the rest of the album. Paulsen writes on the inside cover that the melody was written for his wife, whose birth bird is the Wren.
As a classically trained musician Paulsen adds a whole new dimension to the improvisational jazz scene. His solid background as a classical musician shines when he uses the bow to create a solo sound that amateur musicians may mistake for a cello. Paulsen’s bass intro in the second track, “Tri-cycle” utilizes the harmonic sounds of his bass to create a suspenseful entrance that leads to euphonically original track.
“Darktime” is another original Paulsen number that uses a mysterious and simple bass line to preface a calm groove throughout most of the song. Although Hanley seems to be the dominant player in this original number, Paulsen’s bass line creates the backbone for this relaxing, yet sometimes tense piece.
According to reviewer John Kelman of www.allaboutjazz.com, “a very European aesthetic informs Paulsen’s music.” Kelman adds that “with Hanley and Mullen, Paulsen reveals a stylistic specificity that’s evolving on the Philly scene which can rival that in any other major center.”
If jazz or music lovers are sick of listening to the same old chord progressions repeated over and over again, they should check out Paulsen’s Tri-cycle, it’s a nice change of pace from the pop music that floods the radio these days.