Axiom – the third Tom O’Halloran trio album is due for imminent release, and the musical work is being premiered at the 2020 Perth International Jazz Festival, documenting newer compositions and arrangements.
Tom regularly tours Australia with his original jazz trio comprised of Peter Jeavons (double bass) and Daniel Susnjar (drums). Together they have played large venues like the Sydney Opera House and The Promethean Theatre (Adelaide), and also the best jazz clubs in the country – including 505 and The Basement (Sydney), Bennett’s Lane and Paris Cat (Melbourne), and The Ellington Jazz Club (Perth).
Green Hills and White Clouds was recorded at Soundmine Studios, Perth. It was released on the Jazzgroove label, Sydney, and is distributed in Australia through Creative Vibes. The album was made feature album of the week in January 2007on Radioio, in the USA, and has also been playing online in over 80 countries.
The album received 4 out of 5 stars when reviewed in The Weekend Australian in February 2007 by John McBeath, and he said:“Unlike many contemporary piano trios O’Halloran’s puts great emphasis on strong grooves with improvising intensity: an Oscar Peterson style for the 21st century… The title track ranges over different tempos concocting abstract landscapes and featuring a superbly swinging bass solo. Becoming projects a joyful sense of development and arrival in a bluesy feel, while Gonzalo’s Rubix Cube, for Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, explores Latin rhythms with unusual melodic ideas and a myriad percussive effects to heighten piano and drum interplay. Another example of the high quality contemporary music now available in all Australian states.”
This is what Doug Spencer, the then producer-presenter of ‘The Weekend Planet’ on ABC Radio National had this to say: “All too often ‘accessible’ is code for ‘dumbed-down’, ‘tepid’, or ’tediously predictable’. Not here! Green Hills and White Clouds will likely please even a casual listener, but it offers the deeper listener much more than just attractive melodies (very attractive, indeed) and genial grooves. Oomph and subtlety are equally abundant. A very alert, truly conversational trio is well-served by the warm and natural quality of the recording itself and this uncommonly satisfying trio session concludes with a truly sublime piano solo.”
We Happy Few, the second album released by the Tom O’Halloran Trio, explores darker textures, improvisory interaction with electronics and continues the catalogue of unique compositions that is making this group identifiable. We Happy Few, as a title, stems originally from Shakespeare’s Henry V, yet the soliloquy from which it is taken also surmises metaphors held deep in the music; brotherhood, existential meaning, strength of mind, war or conflict and spontaneity. We Happy Few won the 2009 Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Limelight Magazine award for best jazz achievement.
Jessica Nicholas reviewed a Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club gig of the album launch: “As a composer, O’Halloran is drawn to strong themes and intricate arrangements that bristly with dynamic contrasts. The constant shifts in mood and meter keep his fellow musicians and listeners on their toes, but the overall effect is enthralling rather than exhausting.”
Around that time Tom took interest in electronic artists using MAX/MSP software; and for the We Happy Few recording he collaborated with composer and percussionist Josh Hogan utilising one of his MAX patches live in the studio. The program was based on delay lines, granular synthesis and random integers to affect pitch and rhythm. The premise was to build or simulate a model for how an electronic persona (in this case a laptop computer) could ‘respond’ to the trio audio – an idea he will no doubt develop and refine more in the future when working with improvisation and interaction.
Doug Spencer reviewed and said: “At least as good as this trio’s excellent debut, but a different beast: We Happy Few is quirkier, more bracing, even more alert. Uncommonly intelligent electronic manipulations are an occasional element, but at the core this is a splendid example of conversational music-making by three friends – ‘in the moment’, listening keenly, playing ‘au naturel.’ Hats off to the sound engineers, too.”
Peter Wockner of ABC Limelight Magazine remarked: “The pianist is able to call upon various periods of jazz piano history at ease and incorporate them elegantly into a context that is uniquely his own.”