08 No Time for Chamber MusicNo Time for Chamber Music
collectif9
Independent (collectif9.ca)

The title of this disc by collectif9, one of the most exciting string contemporary ensembles today, comes by way of that musical omnivore, Luciano Berio, whose Sinfonia uses texts from Le cru et le cuit (The Raw and the Cooked) by the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. The sardonic cue from the title is given sharper angularity with the interpretation of Mahler’s profound music, which almost always expressed the composer’s innermost thoughts. These peremptory readings of Mahler’s portentous music are gaunt and shard-like.

Together with the oblique Fantaisie à la manière de Callot by Phillipe Hersant, contrabassist Thibault Bertin-Maghit’s imaginative arrangements create a new excitement around Mahler, a composer who received due recognition after many decades of proselytizing by conductors such as Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Mengelberg and later, Leonard Bernstein.

Although what we have here are vignettes of symphonies from Mahler, collectif9 has masterfully recreated the composer’s sound-world infusing much into the music. These suggest – even conjure – every Mahler-like spectacle from Marche funèbre from Symphony No.5 to the vast images of nature especially in Comme un bruit de la nature from Symphony No.1. There is also the extraordinary lyricism of Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen that unfolds in J’ai un couteau à la lame brûlante and the eloquently wistful performance of L’adieu from Das Lied von der Erde. All of this repertoire by collectif9 is highly charged and intensely dynamic, making for a uniquely impactful disc.

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09 Schreker BirthdayFranz Schreker – The Birthday of the Infanta Suite
Berlin RSO; JoAnn Falletta
Naxos 8.573821 (naxosdirect.com/items/schreker-the-birthday-of-the-infanta-suite-prelude-to-a-drama-romantic-suite-466991)

Almost forgotten after the Nazis banned them in the 1930s, Franz Schreker’s feverish, hyper-romantic-expressionist operas have, in recent years, received welcome new stage productions and recordings. For anyone unfamiliar with Schreker’s gripping sound-world, there’s no better introduction than the first work on this CD, Prelude to a Drama, Schreker’s 18-minute elaboration of the Prelude to Die Gezeichneten (1914), incorporating themes from his operatic masterpiece. JoAnn Falletta, known locally as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, leads the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra in a radiant performance of this gorgeous, numinous music.

The other works on this disc, from Schreker’s earlier years, present him in more genial moods. His 1908 score for The Birthday of the Infanta, a ballet-pantomime after Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale, was his first major success as a composer for the theatre. It obviously remained close to his heart, as he conducted the Berlin State Opera Orchestra in two recordings – an acoustic (1923) and a better-sounding electrical (1927) – of the Suite he arranged from his first hit. Falletta clearly delights in the scintillating sonorities and touches of sentiment in the ten-movement, 20-minute Suite.

Similarly, the 25-minute Romantic Suite (1903) by the then 25-year-old Schreker bathes in warm lyricism throughout its four movements, a symphony in all but its name.

Adding considerably to this CD’s appeal is the brilliant recorded sound and equally brilliant playing of the orchestra under maestra Falletta. Brava!     

10 Shulman GoomanSerenades & Sonatas for Flute and Harp
Suzanne Shulman; Erica Goodman
Naxos 8.573947 (naxosdirect.com/items/serenades-sonatas-for-flute-and-harp-466995)

Flutist Suzanne Shulman and harpist Erica Goodman are popular, brilliant and esteemed Canadian performers who, when asked to participate in a summer festival concert of music for an English garden, gathered pieces evoking an outdoor setting. Here they perform a selection of these compositions/arrangements with stellar ensemble and musical skills.

A single standing bird on the CD booklet cover sets the visual stage for joyous flute and harp garden sounds. The catchy opening of Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves (arranged by Jennifer Grady) leads to the familiar melody on flute with harp accompaniment at a faster tempo than some may expect. A key change leads to a middle section based on the folk tune Lovely, and then back to the closing sensitive, musical lead section. Love the opening Prelude’s florid singing birdlike flute lines, and the lush Mists’ slow-moving flute and harp trills/flourishes in Paul Reade’s five-movement Victorian Kitchen Garden Suite. Alphonse Hasselmans’ technically challenging harp solo La Source, Op.44 features an arpeggiated harp part reminiscent of rushing stream water played with subtle tone choices. William Alwyn’s virtuosic Naiades – Fantasy-Sonata for Flute and Harp encompasses arpeggios, staccato jumps and florid runs, like running water and dancing nymphs, to trills and high-pitched garden-like sounds. Works by Couperin, Woodall, Marson, Chausson, Rota and Elgar complete the collection.

Listening to this luscious musical garden tended by two breathtaking musicians should help make waiting for springtime easier!

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01 Lands EndPulling the Light
Land’s End Ensemble; James Campbell
Centrediscs CMCCD 25718 (musiccentre.ca)

Calgary’s Land’s End Ensemble presents six Canadian works composed since the violin-cello-piano trio was formed 20 years ago. In Omar Daniel’s Piano Trio No.2, two heavily accented rhythmic movements precede two slow, misterioso-style movements, all highly effective thanks to Daniel’s knack for combining dramatic contrasts, piquant sonorities and constant forward motion.

Alexandre David’s Auprès et au loin takes its title from a description of Pierre Boulez’s music as “coherent, closely and from afar.” Composed while David was studying Boulez’s music, it begins with alternating agitato and ruminative passages, eventually gaining momentum and its own coherence. The next three works offer subtle evocations of nature and landscape. Allan Gordon Bell’s Markings depicts three states of water – clouds (wispy strings, piano tinkles), streams (string pizzicati, running piano arpeggios) and glaciers (rapid string figures, thumping piano bass notes).

James Campbell, Canada’s preeminent clarinetist, joins with the trio in Emilie Cecilia Lebel’s Navigational View of South Foreland Point and the Kent Coast, 1840, inspired by drawings from that year. The slow, moody music suggests a mist-shrouded vista lacking any sharply defined landmarks. Campbell also participates in Kelly-Marie Murphy’s Postcards from Home, tone pictures of a winter storm, sunrise and a rousing hoedown. Finally, Laurie Radford’s Event Horizon plays with acoustic space, squiggles of energy and textures enhanced by electronics and science-fiction colours, with section titles including Pulling the Light, Red Shifted and Escape Velocity.               

You’re sure to find something to enjoy on this disc; I did.

02 Jordan NoblesJordan Nobles – Rosetta Stone
Various Artists
Redshift Records TK461 (redshiftrecords.org/releases/tk461)

Prolific Canadian postclassical composer Jordan Nobles has won numerous awards for his scores, including a 2017 JUNO. He also serves as the artistic director of Redshift Music Society, among Vancouver’s most active contemporary music groups. In 2007 it launched Redshift Records, its own label, with an ambitious regionally rooted catalogue that today lists some 39 CDs.

Nobles’ minimalistic collection of nine works collectively titled Rosetta Stone: Music for Multiples is among Redshift Records’ latest releases, selected from the composer’s Open Score Collection of 25 experimental compositions for non-fixed instrumentation. In the liner notes flutist Mark Takeshi McGregor notes that the idea of multiples – musical works composed for several identical or like-sounding instruments – has been a decades-long preoccupation of Nobles. “Whether it’s eight saxophones, six harps, or 24 vibraphones, the monochromatic ensemble presents a creative restriction” capable of surprisingly complex and attractive musical results.

Using multitrack studio recording techniques Nobles opted to have each work on the album performed by a single musician, such as möbius (for ten grand pianos), or air (for 16 bass flutes).

The musical results are remarkably varied, ranging from the dramatically breathy, dense, natural harmonics-based stereophonic swirl of air to the plucked string overtone-rich sound clouds of ephemera (for four seven-string electric guitars).

Perhaps, like me, you’ll find the ever-modulating, plush but never saccharine bass-centric chords of still life (for eight five-octave marimbas) the peaceful six-minute soundbath you crave on a hectic day.

03 Transient CanvasWired
Transient Canvas
New Focus Recordings FCR218 (transientcanvas.com)

Wanna know two sounds I love? Marimba and bass clarinet. Wanna know how I know? This disc is how. Transient Canvas is the duo in question, and their recent release is Wired. Each track features the duo plus electronics, mercifully the latter enhancing rather than distracting from the acoustic sounds.

I’m writing in a manner as close as I can manage to their joyful goofy playing (clean and excellent goofiness, disciplined joy). This is like listening to two of your favourite flavours, say dark chocolate and roasted almonds, that go really well together. Or listening to two of your most beloved colours, say turquoise and deep brown, that set one another off, yet seamlessly blend. Much of the material is pop-sounding enough that the madness of the harmonies and jagged rhythms don’t jar the ear, they toy with it.

It isn’t because it’s all from one composer who gets them or caters to their strengths: each track is from a different composer. Maybe the two (Amy Advocat on bass clarinet, Matt Sharrock on marimba) are really good at commissioning only composers who get them, or maybe the composers themselves just can’t find a way to put them off their game. After three bouncy tracks, there’s a complete change of pace in Hyggelig (Danish for chillaxin’), by Lainie Fefferman. The longest cut, at almost 11 minutes, is the aptly solemn solm by Mischa Salkind-Pearl. The final track, Epidermis by Dan VanHassel, is the most hard-core progressive, yet kinda bebop. Peter Van Zandt Lane’s Exergy Bubblebath wins the Most Whimsical Title award.

04 Isang YunIsang Yun – Sunrise Falling
Dennis Russell Davies; Matt Haimovitz; Yumi Hwang-Williams; Maki Namekawa; Bruckner Orchester Linz
Pentatone PTC 5186 693 (naxosdirect.com/items/sunrise-falling-467137)

Isang Yun: Sunrise Falling is a centennial commemoration of the uncompromising life and music of Korean-German composer Isang Yun (1917–1995). Maestro Dennis Russell Davies, long a Yun collaborator and advocate, curated the program, ably conducting the Bruckner Orchestra Linz.

Born in present-day South Korea and later re-establishing himself in West Germany, Yun certainly has one of the most unusual biographies of any composer of Western concert music. His is an epic story of a lifelong fight for Korean national independence and unity, thwarted by exile, all framed by the creation of some of the most emotionally gripping and transculturally cogent music of the 20th century. After establishing an award-winning composing and teaching career in Korea after WWII, in 1956 Yun relocated to Europe to further study composition, settling in Germany. His idiosyncratic style fully emerged in Gasa (1963) for violin and piano, evocatively performed on this album by violinist Yumi Hwang-Williams and pianist Dennis Russell Davies. Its score overlays Schoenberg-derived 12-tone gestures with complex sustained tones imbued with high emotion, the latter, an essential quality of traditional Korean music.

On June 17, 1967 Yun’s life took an extraordinarily dramatic and life-threatening turn. He was kidnapped by the South Korean secret service from his West Berlin home. Taken to Seoul to face trumped-up charges, he was accused of being a North Korean spy even though he had only visited there as a tourist. Tortured in prison, he attempted suicide. He was forced to confess to espionage resulting in a death sentence, subsequently commuted to a lengthy prison term. Yun was eventually released in 1969, in great measure as a result of international outrage at his mistreatment and the injustice of the charge. He returned to a divided Germany never again to go back to his Korean birthplace.

Yun’s dramatic biography informs his mature music – a convincing blend of Korean and European musical instruments, idioms and sensibilities – accurately reflecting the human and political drama and intercultural fabric of his life story. The album’s key works are the full-length Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra (1976), and Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No.1 (1981), both imbued with autobiographical allusion. Virtuoso cellist Matt Haimovitz assays Yun’s intense score jam-packed with despair, as well as exultation over personal tragedy, with deep musicality and passion. Innovative timbral textures, such as the use of a plectrum on the cello to emulate the kŏmun’go (Korean zither), delight the ear. That technique also adroitly bridges the composer’s mid-20th-century Korean and Central European classical music worlds.

The double album’s booklet concludes on a hopeful note. “100 years after Isang Yun’s birth, the two Koreas still teeter on a razor’s edge, with ever more global ramifications. His music opens the gate to a lost, united land, with Yun’s own heart bleeding but ever hopeful.”

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05 Piazzolla NeaveCelebrating Piazzolla
Neave Trio
Azica Records ACD-71324 (naxosdirect.com/items/celebrating-piazzolla-473444)

The Neave Trio, comprised of violinist Anna Williams, cellist Mikhail Veselov and pianist Eri Nakamura, perform arrangements of Astor Piazzolla compositions in this new release without, in a refreshing change of musical pace, the composer’s ever present bandoneon. The resulting soundscape brings a new life to Piazzolla’s music. José Bragato is a cellist/composer who played in several of Piazzolla’s ensembles and here arranged the four-movement Las cuatro estaciones porteňas for the trio. Each movement is true to the Piazzolla sound, with the musicians playing abrupt tempo changes, rhythms, high pitches and mournful sounds with passion. Great extended solos showcase their commitment to the composer’s work in the final Invierno Porteňa movement.

The trio is then joined by mezzo-soprano Carla Jablonski in five Piazzolla songs arranged by Leonardo Suárez Paz, son of Piazzolla’s band member violinist Fernando. Jablonski’s voice captures all the emotive sentiments especially in the familiar Oblivion, where the vocals are surprisingly able to emulate the bandoneon sound, especially in the lengthy held notes, while the trio continues to create a larger band sound. Lyrics and translations would be appreciated.

The recording ends with a performance of Suárez Paz’s work Milonga de los Monsters. Though more atonal, touches of Piazzolla sounds surface in this technically amazing fun-filled performance. The Neave Trio is to be congratulated for their passionate fresh ideas of ensemble and instrumental performance. Their expertise in sound creation, playing and improvising create a new way to hear Piazzolla’s work.

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06 Tobias KleinTobias Klein – Chambery
Fie Schouten
Attaca ATT 2018156 (attacaproductions.com)

Tobias Klein looks out from the cover photo on this disc with an ingenuous expression of innocent gratitude that you might want to listen to his music. Don’t be fooled. He knows you want to dislike it and him and yet he still expects to win you over. His ally in the effort is bass clarinetist Fie Schouten, with accomplices too numerous to list.

As if to sucker the listener, he starts with Leichte Überlappungen (2018), a bass clarinet duet composed, according to his own words in the notes, using a rigorous mathematical method contrary to his normal practice of unrigorous, intuitive construction. Not a great opening gambit, it says here. I disagree with the composer that the result of his decision “sounds like it was composed with a lot of passion.” Still, the quality of performance and the interesting structure leave one maybe slightly more inclined to like the guy and his music. Then he whacks you with all the winning arguments to follow.

Far more successful, and interesting, is Kengboginn (2014), a lyrical conversation between bass clarinet and harpsichord, the latter somewhat overmatched in the mix. Back in time we go to 2009, a far more primitive time where drums, breaking glass, and bass clarinet dance about naked, without inhibition, in (deep breath) SteinHolzGummiWasser. Bogus Bogey, a trio with piano and flute (2005), is neither scary, golf-related, nor as far as one can hear, bogus; it’s just pretty cool, as in Mission Impossible (the television series) cool. Vermutung (2008) is a very hip pairing of accordion with bass clarinet (what could be hipper?).

Well played, Mr. Klein, well played. Extremely well played, Ms. Schouten et al.

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08 ElectroClarinetElectroclarinet
Jean-Francois Charles
Independent (electroclarinet.com)

I must say it’s refreshing to consider a CD that includes a poem instead of traditional liner notes. The untitled poem written in French, by Alice Gervais-Ragu, seems to refer specifically to the beast that is the clarinet (most especially the contrabass and the basset). Jean-François Charles has tamed these hounds, the whole pack in fact, who wag their tails with delight on this disc.

Clarinetist and composer Charles, whose series of six pieces titled ElectroClarinet make up the bulk of the disc, gives no other accounting for his work than the audible evidence: Ten tracks, recorded in Iowa City over a two-day period roughly one year ago. His métier is acoustic instrument with live electronics. He grapples with every member of the broad range of horns, from contrabass (an octave below the bass clarinet), through bass, basset horn, A, B-flat, and E-flat. Electroclarinet 1 dates from 2009; the latest and longest, Electroclarinet6, from 2014. The four in between are subtitled as Homage to… (in order) Debussy, Weber, Messiaen and Stravinsky.

Delays, reverb, and a variety of granulating effects create soundscapes distinctly unclarinet-like. Anyone so inclined is welcome to delve into how the homages relate to the various composers and the works they notably added to the repertoire. (There’s something reminiscent of L’Abyme des Oiseaux in number four and flat-out quotes from Stravinsky’s Three Pieces in number five.) I recommend putting these on and enjoying the path to wherever the pooch wants to go.

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01 Eldon Rathburn ProjectThe Romance of Improvisation in Canada: The Genius of Eldon Rathburn
Petr Cancura; Kevin Turcotte; Marianne Trudel; Adrian Vedady; Jim Doxas
Justin Time JTR 8613-2 (justin-time.com/en/album/588)

The Romance of Improvisation in Canada – The Genius of Eldon Rathburn celebrates the music of the late, titular composer, who wrote more than 250 film scores, the majority of them during his long career as a staff composer for the National Film Board. This album – released through Justin Time, and helmed by Adrian Matte and Allyson Rogers, who co-produce and arrange all the album’s music – is a labour of love to the memory of Rathburn, whose music will be familiar to multiple generations of Canadians, even if his name is not. Playing Matte and Rogers’ arrangements is the top-notch ensemble of Petr Cancura, saxophone, Kevin Turcotte, trumpet, Marianne Trudel, piano, Adrian Vedady, bass, and Jim Doxas, drums.

Working for the NFB, many of Rathburn’s assignments involved composing music for educational shorts, including the endearingly titled Fish Spoilage Control; the theme gets an up-tempo swing treatment on this album, with a jagged melody set atop a tense pedal point. The Industrial Revolution Comes to Canada, at a mere 31 seconds, is a brief foreboding delight; likewise the three sections of the Ox Driver’s Blues suite. Fresh Fish Delish! Le Poisson se mange frais! is a bouncy, bluesy number, which, like so much of the album, balances humour and levity with the ensemble’s sophisticated improvisational prowess; Vedady, Turcotte, Cancura and Trudel all take concise solos. An excellent and unique album, appropriate for those interested in Rathburn, jazz, Canadiana or any combination thereof.

03 Ben dCunhaThis Is Autumn to Me
Ben D’Cunha
Independent (bendcunha.com)

On his debut recording, compelling pianist, vocalist and composer, Ben D’Cunha culled the selection of tunes here from 27 original songs captured in a single four-hour recording session this past summer. D’Cunha’s voice is rich and lustrous, and his jazz sensibility and phrasing are superb. As a pianist, he is in the pocket, connecting on a psychic level with the superb musicians also featured on this fine recording – Bob Brough on tenor saxophone, Jordan O’Connor on acoustic bass and Mike McClelland on drums.

The CD gets going with Earworm – an up-tempo, beboppish salute to the great vocalese progenitors, such as Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. D’Cunha bops and scats joyously throughout this delightful tune, punctuated by the trading of fours with Brough, O’Connor and McClelland. Of special note is the title track, a lilting bossa with a charming lyric and thoroughly gorgeous vocal. D’Cunha seems to channel the late, great, Kenny Rankin here with his pitch-pure and vibrato-controlled vocal sound. Also of note is Where Are You Now – a touching ballad of a past love, loss and reflection. The pristine canvas of piano, bass and drums is the perfect setting for this deeply moving piece.

The ten tasty tracks continue with Sweet Honey Bee (Won’t You Walk With Me) – a bluesy, funky tune featuring the soulful tones of Brough on tenor; and also the brilliantly lyricized, You Expletive You – a contemplative ballad about toxic love. O’Connor sets the sultry tone with the wonderful voice/bass duet that kicks off this boppish ballad, and Brough’s languid solo is masterful, as is O’Connor’s.

03 TrioliloquyTrioliloquy
A/B Trio
Chronojazz CR065 (chronographrecords.com/releases/trioliloquoy)

While the slyly clever play on words in the title may suggest drama and a certain angular structure to the music, nothing can really prepare you for the fierce energy that leaps out of the opening chords of the A/B Trio’s opening chart Lenny’s Beat. It’s an immensely exciting start to a recording that has you on the edge of your seat.

Primary colours abound in the textures that often rustle in the raw silk of Dan Davis’ saxophones that receive a mighty fillip from the brassy ones that special guest, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, brings to the trio. All this while bassist Josh McHan and percussion colourist Thom Bennett keep the music on a tight rein, with rhythms and phrasing that are tight and alert.

It’s quite a shock to also see how fast the music can move from the tempestuous opening chart to the stately canter of the romantically inclined How Suite It Is, where the musicians take an elegiac view of the written material and work around it to produce something quite magical even in a walking rhythm.

The poetic waltz Leda’s Song later in in the repertoire keeps things deliriously romantic and balletic at the same time; this before the heat is turned up once again with the raw and gutsy Bluesaholic and the tantalizing interplay of Secondary Opinion that closes this edifying music. Capture that in a recording that gives space to sound and you have a winner.

04 Uncertainly PrincipleLive at The Rex
The Uncertainty Principle
Independent (andrewboniwell.com)

With the release of pianist and composer Andrew Boniwell’s second CD with his stellar ensemble, The Uncertainty Principle, he has once again established himself as one of the most creative, non-Euclidian, improvisational jazz musicians on the scene today. For this live recording (expertly engineered by Neil MacIntosh at Toronto’s Rex Hotel and Jazz and Blues Bar), he has once again coalesced the considerable talents of Richard Underhill on alto saxophone, Kevin Turcotte on trumpet, Artie Roth on bass and Mike McClelland on drums. Boniwell serves as producer here, and has written all but one of the compositions. He is also fluent in what is possibly the only universal language – mathematics – and although the sophisticated quantum concepts that are integral to his music may not be readily understood, the exciting and unpredictable aspects of it certainly communicate the plasticity of space/time, as well as the thrilling idea of participating in a perfect, unexpected and unplanned moment of creation.

Boniwell’s opening salvo, Getting Higgy With It, Part #1 is a dream-like piano and percussion exploration which segues into the evocative Sleeping Giant, which features superb work from Underhill and McClelland. Another standout is Probability Wave #1 / HUP Poem, in which a superb bass solo and profound trumpet work lead the ensemble into a free flight of beauty and majesty punctuated by a stirring, hip, thought-provoking spoken word sequence by Boniwell. Winding up the CD are two exceptional tracks, Suite 60, where Underhill’s alto and Turcotte’s muted trumpet cling together like particles attracting, and Monk’s Well, You Needn’t, re-imagined with Latin underpinnings. Both are triumphs, as is the entire recording.

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06 Mike FieldTrue Stories
Mike Field
Independent MFJCD 1801 (mikefieldjazz.com)

Following three previous award-winning CDs, trumpeter/composer/vocalist Mike Field presents a heady blend of his actual diverse, peripatetic road experiences expertly merged with compelling bits of pure fantasy. Field serves as composer here, as well as co-producer/co-arranger with noted guitarist Dominic Mancuso. In order to bring his eclectic concept into reality, Field has assembled a cast of fine musicians, including Mark Camilleri on piano/organ, Russ Boswell and George Koller on bass, Davide Direnzo on drums, Rosendo “Chendy” León on percussion, Mancuso and Tony Zorzi on guitar and Jerry Caringi on accordion.

The project kicks off with Mechanic, a hard-rocking anthem, replete with burning horns, face-melting guitar and impassioned vocals by Field that tell the story of a lonely, travelling space mechanic. Following immediately is another standout, The Hotel by the Mansion, which features a klezmer-like arrangement about a very peculiar circus act, starring a woman with fire in her hair (the kind of act that you can only do once!) Field soars on Tu vuo’ fa’ l’americano – a lusty reworking of Carosone and Salerno’s Neapolitan classic, most recently heard in the film, The Talented Mr. Ripley, replete with a bombastic accordion solo from Caringi.

Also of note are Magnolia, a swinging, jazz-like tune that features not only a fine vocal by Field, but also a dynamic trumpet solo, and the lyrical closer, Autumn Lovesong, which is a tender reflection on love, life, family, the turning of the seasons and the inevitable passage of time. Field sings deeply and emotionally, in symbiosis with gorgeous piano work by Camilleri.

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07 No CodesNo Codes
Benjamin Deschamps
Independent (benjamindeschamps.com)

Put these four gentlemen together in the warmth of an acoustically perfect room and you instantly have a heavyweight quartet bursting forth from bar one, then continuing to carve out a niche for itself. No Codes suggests allegiance to no single style within the realm of jazz but there is certainly a reference to the rippling boppish groove that soon unfolds into music with tantalizing angular melodies couched in complex tempi and abruptly changing rhythms.

Alto saxophonist Benjamin Deschamps, playing his heart out, shows that he can hold his own with his veteran colleague tenor saxophonist Frank Lozano. Bassist Sébastien Pellerin and drummer Louis-Vincent Hamel frame the broodingly percussive rhythm section but every now and then they come forth from playing in the pocket to ring in the changes in mood, structure and tempo. All of this makes for a highly interesting program, from the blistering bop runs of Rules of Compression that lift the lid on this pressure-cooker atmosphere around the band to the loose and funky swagger of Cool Cats and the tart, party-time thrills and spills of Double Meaning and My Steps.

There is a considerable degree of balance and integration of melody, harmony and rhythm from this piano-less quartet. This is touching and toe-tapping music in equal measure. Again, composition and improvisation, exploration, individuality and tradition are all impressively maintained throughout, which makes No Codes a disc to absolutely die for.

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