04 CelebrationCelebration
Alan Silva; Itaru Oki; Makoto Sato; Richard Comte
Nunc Records Nunc.027 (nunc-nunc.com) 

A bittersweet celebration; while this 2019 Paris concert honoured the 80th birthday of U.S. expatriate keyboardist Alan Silva, it was also the final recording for Japanese trumpeter Itaru Oki (1941-2020), who, like Silva, was a longtime member of the Gallic creative music scene. During this three-part free improvisation, Silva uses the smears, swells and echoes from his keyboard to accompany Oki’s sophisticated command of his brass instrument that ranges from strained high pitches to half-valve guttural effects, all the while preserving the tune’s melodic kernel. Percussionist Makoto Sato, another Japanese expat, adds unobtrusive clip-clop accents to the action, while French guitarist Richard Comte strums connective lines for all, when not briefly disrupting the interface with pointed string stabs or jagged power chords.

On top of the pulsating drums-tremolo keyboard continuum, Oki’s muted harmonies and portamento grace notes take up the greatest part of his expression. But sudden dog-whistle squeals, and the introduction to the improvisation’s second section, where he appears to be huffing textures from a combination of plastic trumpet and harmonica, demonstrate his blazing individuality. Integration of that unique tone and his subsequent smeared triplets into that balanced narrative also confirm the scope of the quartet’s creative free jazz.

Silva, Sato and Comte continue making individual free music in other contexts. While Oki can’t anymore, this disc properly celebrates his reciprocal skill working with seasoned players of similar invention.

05 Lynne ArrialeThe Lights are Always On
Lynne Arriale; Jasper Somsen; E.J. Strickland
Challenge Records CR73532 (lynnearriale.com)

With her 16th album, jazz pianist/composer/educator Lynn Arriale has once again underscored exactly why she is considered to be one of the most creative, technically skilled and emotionally facile jazz artists on the globe. All of the material here was penned by Arriale, and her inspiration was born out of the horrendous world events that have taken place during the past two years, as well as the massive contributions left by the evolved souls who have existed on our blue orb as healers, truth-tellers and defenders of human rights. 

First up is March On, which was directly inspired by the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. The composition is loaded with dynamic, insistent chordal statements. Arialle’s powerful rhythmic integrity and innovating improvisations drive this compelling anthem. Jasper Somsen’s lyrical bass solo generates beauty and peace while E.J. Strickland’s creative and dynamic-filled drumming seals the deal.

The title track is taken from a quote by dedicated physician, Dr. Prakash Gada, and in Arriale’s words, “There is always reason to believe in that light; the inherent goodness of people…” In this performance, Arriale’s musicianship is such a conduit of pure, undiluted feelings that it’s as if she reaches out directly into one’s heart and mind. Other stellar tracks include Sisters, which celebrates the struggle for gender equality and Honor, which is dedicated to Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman – a truth teller, whose testimony exposed some of Trump’s heinous and illegal activities. Of special beauty are The Notorious RBG, in honour of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the spiritually uplifting Walk in My Shoes, composed in recognition of legendary Civil Rights advocate and U.S. Politician John Lewis.

06 Pete MalinverniOn the Town – Pete Malinverni plays Leonard Bernstein
Pete Malinverni
Planet Arts 302124 (petemalinverni.com)

Pete Malinverni is a highly respected New York City-based pianist/composer, widely known for his technical skill as well as for his swinging and lyrical interpretations. It was a bit of propinquity – the kind that can only happen in New York City – that kick-started the idea for this truly exceptional recording, on which Malinverni also serves as producer. While on a gig at a prestigious private party, Malinverni met Leonard Bernstein, and he was so moved by Bernstein’s passion for music, as well as by his New York City-infused compositions, that eventually this recording became fully manifest. This CD is not only a tribute to Bernstein, but it is also a love letter from Malinverni to his beloved New York City. Malinverni’s collaborators here include noted jazz luminaries Ugonna Okegwo on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums.

The cheeky opener, New York, New York, comes from the Broadway/film hit, On the Town. The trio moves like one, swinging organism and the expertly recorded instruments draw the listener into a profoundly intimate jazz experience.  Malinverni’s soloing is inventive, and easily segues in and out of deep grooves. Okegwo is both solid and facile and Hamilton propels everyone down the pike with his energy and skill – as only a New York drummer can do.

With a stirring percussion intro and outro by Hamilton, Cool from West Side Story is a stellar track that lends itself perfectly to a pure jazz format… which makes one wonder if Bernstein wasn’t a bit of a jazz musician himself! Simple Song from Mass is presented here with such heart and soul, that it feels as though each musician was singing the lyrics in his head. I have a feeling that if Lenny were here now, he would be thrilled with this masterfully conceived and performed project.

07 Jami TMPletonThe Shape of My Heart
Jami Templeton; Andy Langham; Edwin Livingston; Charles Ruggiero; Joel Frahm
Independent (jamitempleton.bandcamp.com) 

Los Angeles-based classically trained jazz vocalist Jami Templeton has a story to tell, and through the eclectic and emotional nature of her new recording, her story leads the listener through an auditory banquet of diverse material from the worlds of country, pop, rock, musical theatre and the Great American Song Book. Templeton’s voice is compelling, moving and a delight to the ear. Skilled producer Andy Langham also performs here on piano and melodica, along with first call L.A. musicians Edwin Livingston on bass, Charles Ruggiero on drums and the masterful Joel Frahm on tenor saxophone.  

First up is Willie Nelson’s moving country ballad, Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground, rendered here with a swoon-worthy romantic treatment, as Langham expressively uses innovative chord substitutions and technical skill to bring forth every last drop of empathy. Templeton’s voice is sumptuous, controlled and pitch perfect – reminiscent of (and technically superior to) Julie London, Chris Connor or Joanie James – perfectly capturing the mood of the arrangement.

Also of note is a singular, creative interpretation of Sting’s Shape of my Heart, in which Templeton’s evocative voice and Sting’s melancholy/dystopic vision are perfectly underscored by strong arco bass lines, fine drumming and the sonic treat of Langham’s melodica. Of rare beauty is Templeton’s take on Tom Petty’s Room at the Top. Her warm, mezzo voice is diaphanous and haunting, and also intuitively rhythmic, with a profound jazz sensibility. David Mann’s 1950’s cinema noir-ish ballad, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning is a total standout, replete with Ruggiero’s sensitive use of mallets, the thrilling coalescence of the trio, and the brilliant lyric, which all join together as one, wrapping themselves around Templeton’s balmy, knowing, lovely pipes.

08 Cuhna SchwagerLate Night
Fernanda Cunha; Reg Schwager
Independent (fernandacunha.com)

With the release of this new recording, there can be little doubt that the creative pairing of the gifted Brazilian/Canadian vocalist Fernanda Cunha and eminent Canadian guitarist Reg Schwager is a match made in musical heaven. All of the fine compositions here were written by Schwager, with lyrics by Cunha. Schwager (also wearing producer and arranger hats) performs on guitars and electric bass along with his equally eminent colleagues Tom Szczesniak on piano, keyboard and accordion; Allison Au on alto saxophone; Masashi Usui on tenor saxophone; Pat Collins on acoustic bass; Michel Lambert on drums and Edson Chilardi on drums and percussion.

The eight superlative tracks here are luminous in their beautiful construction, performed with breathtaking technical skill and rendered with such emotional resonance that the term “awe-inspiring” is more than apt. Dança Do Amor is a sensual, intimate glimpse into pure romance and Szczesniak’s keyboard work is perfection itself, reminiscent of the great Manfredo Fest. Cunha’s velvety alto weaves a web of eroticism and Schwager’s solo is the perfect, crystalline appurtenance.

Quero só Viver em Paz is a joyous, lilting samba with intriguing chord changes and facile accordion work from Szczesniak while Cunha’s rich vocal sound evokes the great Leny Andrade. The lush title track boasts a thoroughly lovely alto solo by Au, and captures what it must feel like to walk on Ipanema Beach following a transplendent night in Rio. Novo Amor opens with a vocal/bass intro followed by a masterful acoustic bass solo by Collins and Vias Paralelas has an internal, chordal and rhythmic tension that solders the genres of Brazilian music and contemporary jazz. The sumptuous closer, October Song features Cunha singing in English and displaying her indisputable talent for fine lyric writing and lyrical interpretation in any language.

09 Andrew BoudreauNeon
Andrew Boudreau; Neta Raanan; Simon Willson; Eviatar Slivnik
Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT-634 (andrewboudreau.com) 

The liquid pianism of Andrew Boudreau is a treat for the connoisseur’s inner ear. His debut disc Neon is launched in irrepressible fashion with vivid original compositions that appear to come at you from very interesting, oblique harmonic and rhythmic angles. Both complementary and contrasting colours and tone textures nestle cheek by jowl. They spring from a single source: the questing mind of a young composer and pianist who thrusts his music off the beaten path.

Boudreau makes a proverbial splash on his first outing as a recording artist. He brings his prodigious musical gifts to these songs. He plays with intuition and intellect; with elegance of form, generous lyricism and tumbling fantasy. This makes the program eminently beckoning. 

The tunes Neon, Ghost Stories and Hopscotch are extraordinarily eloquent and seductive, and the pianist, justifiably shines through them. But this riveting musicianship is not the sole purview of Boudreau. He plays with equally intriguing bedfellows. The bassist Simón Willson and drummer Eviatar Slivnik are fully attuned to the pianist’s vision and artistry and – together with tenor saxophonist Neta Raanan – these artists have formed an elegant musical relationship. 

Boudreau – a talent worth watching – goes for unforced clarity rather than the nth degree of excitement. It won’t matter to you that his fresh, spacious and airy interpretation of this piano-driven repertoire lacks the kind of celebratory noise that many debutants go for on their first outing on disc.

10 JumpJump
Julieta Eugenio; Matt Dwonszyk; Jonathan Barber
Greenleaf Music GRE-CD-1092 (julieta-eugenio.com) 

Many musicians today put out what may be called mixed compilation programs on their debut discs. It’s almost as if they are testing the waters, so to speak; playing in a variety of styles and personas. However, it is a healthy sign when the program makes intrinsic musical sense from start to finish, revealing not simply a mature program, but a near-fully formed musical voice. This is exactly the case with Jump by tenor saxophonist Julieta Eugenio.

The smoky syntax of Eugenio’s music speaks to a rare kind of maturity that is rooted in a deeply reflective psyche. Her compositions seem made for a molten, meditative saxophone voice that tumbles out of the bell of her horn in parabolic glissandos forming profound melodic lines born of tender phrases ending with sensuously whispered vibrato.  

Mostly original work by Eugenio fills this album – except for two standards – revealing a musician who mines her tenor for all the tonal purity that it can offer. Nothing is overly mannered; everything seems poised, balanced and intuitively right. For You, Another Bliss, Tres, and the exquisitely paced standard, Crazy He Calls Me are gleaming gems.

Finally, if trio music is an intimate conversation among friends, then Eugenio, bassist Matt Dwonszyk and drummer Jonathan Barber parlay with the familiarity of old friends. Yet their playing retains the gracious etiquette associated with musical noblesse oblige, which comes from being musicians of a thoroughbred sort.

11 Roberto OcchipintiThe Next Step
Roberto Occhipinti; Adrean Farrugia; Larnell Lewis
Modica Music (modicamusic.com) 

The curiosity engrained in bassist Roberto Occhipinti’s personality has allowed him to wear many hats in the music industry, all while avoiding the “master of none” trap that often accompanies “jack of all trades.” Equally at home in a jazz quartet, perched on a stool in an orchestra or writing notes in the booth of a recording studio, the man does it all. This versatility kept Occhipinti busy through periods of the COVID-19 pandemic where even the most passionate of us were twiddling our thumbs. How? With his own recording studio, and Modica Music. 

The Next Step was recorded there, released on Modica and features a who’s who of Canadian musicians, although fewer than you might expect. Occhipinti opted for a piano trio on this release, consisting of Adrean Farrugia on piano and Larnell Lewis on drums, with the addition of vocalist Ilaria Crociani gracing the fifth track. This is the type of band one could expect to hear musical pyrotechnics from, but this recording comes off as cool and subdued instead. 

“Subdued” certainly doesn’t imply any lack of energy throughout the album, as the trio gives their all to even the slower and more introspective tracks. Jaco Pastorius’ Opus Pocus and Occhipinti’s A Tynerish Swing are both on the edgier side, the latter featuring a great bass solo after the catchy melody. The album is unified by overdubbed arco additions from Occhipinti, which makes it feel like a larger ensemble is present without taking away from the interplay of the trio.

Listen to 'The Next Step' Now in the Listening Room

12 Arron Dolmanare you here to help?
Aaron Dolman; Sarah Rossy; Eugénie Jobin
Independent (aarondolman.com) 

On the back cover of drummer/composer Aaron Dolman’s Are You Here to Help? a set of brief poetic liner notes mentions “the gentle potency of silence.” This resonated with me after several listens to the album. In the paired-down setting of vocals, drums and occasional vibraphone, artists are left with a choice to either try and fill every space, or to embrace the subtlety of the ensemble. The first option has potential for more showiness, but the second, which Dolman opts for, allows silence and space to become a fourth member of the band. 

Vocalists Sarah Rossy and Eugéénie Jobin (Jobin contributes the vibraphone playing on tracks 2, 4 and 8) are not afraid of the avant-garde, but are always perfectly in tune and rhythmically confident when the music asks for it. This is no easy feat on an album largely devoid of harmonic accompaniment! 

Dolman’s drumming is not without its fair share of contrast to keep listeners entertained. The sections of his compositions with a steady groove are made even more poignant by the free and open improvisations that surround them. This is especially the case on the album’s title track, which features a great deal of groove as a contrast to relatively abstract harmonic and melodic ideas. Juxtaposition might just be the theme of this album, as it contains enough abstraction to amuse tired ears and enough cohesion to pull in more conservative listeners. Something for everyone!

13a Grdina HaramNight’s Quietest Hour
Gordon Grdina’s Haram with Marc Ribot
Attaboygirl Records ABG-3 

Oddly Enough – The Music of Tim Berne
Gordon Grdina
Attaboygirl Records ABG-4 (gordongrdinamusic.com)

Guitarist/composer Gordon Grdina leads several ensembles, from home-based Vancouver bands to various international collaborations, each representing different aspects of his broad musical interests. These two CDs on his recent Attaboygirl label may be his brightest achievements so far, the first as a bandleader, the second as a guitarist.

Among his hometown groups, Haram, formed in 2008, focuses Grdina’s interest in traditional and contemporary Middle Eastern music. There are ten other musicians in the band, including Grdina’s frequent rhythm section of bassist Tommy Babin and drummer Kenton Loewen with an array of other distinguished Vancouverites, among them clarinetist François Houle, trumpeter JP Carter and violinists Josh and Jesse Zubot. Expatriate Syrian singer Emad Armoush is an essential and prominent component, bringing focus and a keening intensity to the melodies in the midst of tremendous rhythmic energy. Grdina plays oud here, bringing an idiomatic mastery to the Middle Eastern lute, while featuring guitarist Marc Ribot, whose distinctively sparse, edgy lines have marked collaborations from Tom Waits to John Zorn. The compound rhythms and essentially modal underpinnings support everything from delicate dialogues of guitar and oud and pastoral songs of longing, all of which will stretch to climactic ensembles that can merge Armoush’s vocals and a choir of singing musicians, all topped by the mercurial leads of Ribot and the other soloists, notably tenor saxophonist Christopher Kelly. 

13b Grdina Oddly EnoughOddly Enough is a solo guitar recording exploring the music of New York-based composer/alto saxophonist Tim Berne, a significant figure at the creative edges of jazz whose works can fuse lyricism, tradition and an expanding complexity. For the project, Grdina has created a highly distinctive palette, playing classical and acoustic guitars, oud and dobro, but most notably a hybrid midi-synth electric guitar that aids him in creating distinctive polyphonic dialogues with multiple sonic identities. The results are as apt to sound like a band as a solo guitarist, and the first sounds heard on the opening title track suggest an electronically altered drum kit rather than a guitar. That might turn off purists, but persist and one is increasingly immersed in this dense work, an almost natural path for a musician as multi-voiced as Grdina. Enord Krad, the most complex of the pieces with oud, voices and reverb crashes travelling against its keening electric lead, is the most compelling of the works, mingling lyricism, angst and technology in subtle ways, before concluding with a sustained virtuosic and acoustic cadenza. The extended Snippet and the concluding Pliant Squids, filled with singing acoustic detail, fuse the distinctive lyric predilections of composer and performer in what may be Grdina’s most fully developed statement to date.    

14a Rat Drifting Impossible BurgerImpossible Burger

Country Phasers
Kurt Newman

In the Same Room
Doug Tielli; Nick Fraser
Rat Drifting (rat-drifting.bandcamp.com)

In the early 2000s composer/guitarist Eric Chenaux created Rat-Drifting, as imaginative and distinctive as any label might hope to be, encouraging and embracing the most varied projects, often beyond genre. My favourite was Blasé Kisses by the Reveries, the trio of Chenaux, Ryan Driver and Doug Tielli who performed standards from the Great American Songbook with mouth-speakers and a mouth-microphone, literally inside their mouths, suggesting a submerged nightclub broadcasting from deep space: mysterious, funny and somehow transcendent. Now Chenaux is back, making Rat-Drifting’s brilliant and whimsical early documentation of Toronto music available again, as well as releasing new recordings, in download format. If the label has an aesthetic, it’s less about performance and more about capturing rare states of mind. The first three releases embody a special quality, an infectious empathy. Each is utterly different, but each is restorative. Each might happily share a Sun Ra title: Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy.  

The group 2P2 includes Karen Ng playing sax, bass, kalimba, synth, guitar, static, slide and stomach grumble, with Philippe Melanson playing percussion, electronics, field recordings, voice and guitar, along with Christopher Willes on synthesizers, gated tape loops, flute, tenor recorder, text-to-speech with the Melanson Family and Robin Dann adding voices. But the room isn’t crowded: it includes Toronto, Montreal, Cape Breton and Moncton. A pandemic project, it triumphs over isolation, giving its varied sounds attention, yet barely dusting them with intention, disparate and distant sounds gently joined in the ether. The liquid sounds of guitar and literal water heard on I are intimate, immediate, seemingly beyond authorship, while on the brief E, instruments are glimpsed through a wall of static.

14b Rat Drifting Country PhasersThe eponymous Country Phasers is a band of one, with Kurt Newman playing a just intonation harmonica, pedal steel guitar and electronics that include overdubbing, looping and percussion. It’s steeped in the sounds of country music, with the singing sustains and bending tones of the steel guitar prominently featured. The repetitions and sustained drones declare affinities with Terry Riley and Bill Frisell, while the clear, high pitches suggest Andean flute music, and the looping electronic lead of Julienne invokes bagpipes. Though a strange digital break-up occasionally occurs near an ending, e.g., Chiffonade, a second’s pause quickly restores the ambient order.

14c Rat Drifting Nick FraserTrombonist Doug Tielli and drummer (and sometime-pianist here) Nick Fraser have enjoyed a long collaboration including Drumheller, a free jazz quintet that included Cheneaux, Rob Clutton and Brodie West, and which also recorded for Rat-Drifting. Active from 2003 to 2013, it was one of Canada’s most creative bands. With the two isolated In the Same Room, the emphasis is less on intense creativity than depth of feeling, mood and response. Tielli is as artful as he is vocalic, and he summons up his instrument’s great jazz tradition of expressive lyricism, whether elegant or rustic, sometimes suggesting Jack Teagarden or Roswell Rudd. Fraser is an artful partner, whether creating rhythmic dialogue and momentum or subtly supportive commentary.

15 Koppel Mulberry StreetAnders Koppel – Mulberry Street Symphony
Benjamin Koppel; Scott Colley; Brian Blade; Odense Symphony Orchestra; Martin Yates
Unit Records (unitrecords.com/releases) 

Mulberry Street Symphony is Danish rock musician and composer Anders Koppel›s fascinating musical take on 19th-century New York with its huge immigrant population. So many newcomers were pushed into crowded tenements and worked in sweatshops for low wages. Seven of the eight pieces on this double CD were inspired by the photographs of the “crusading photojournalist and social reformer, Jacob Riis.” The booklet that accompanies the set allows us to view the poignant and sombre photographs including Stranded in the City, Minding the Baby, The Last Mulberry and Bandit’s Roost

Just as the immigrants had diverse origins, the Mulberry Street Symphony combines a classical orchestra with a jazz trio of bass, drums and Benjamin Koppel (son of Anders) on alto saxophone. The orchestra and jazz ensemble play back and forth with Koppel›s saxophone weaving between these two forces with a clean and energetic sound. Tommy the Shoeshine Boy is a 20-minute piece which moves through many phases and we can imagine busy street scenes, the bustle of commerce and then a few short languid sections (perhaps Tommy gets to nap?) which emphasize the strings. By contrast, Blind Man is a delicate adagio piece with eloquent saxophone lines that weave between the orchestra’s strings and woodwinds. Mulberry Street Symphony is a complex and memorable reimagining of an important time and place.

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16 Emile ParisienLouise
Emile Parisien Sextet
ACT 9943-2 (actmusic.com) 

Although Emile Parisien is French, and Louise was created featuring musicians from Europe and the USA, there is a small Canadian connection: Louise is inspired by the well-known French/American artist Louise Bourgeois who created Maman, the rather large spider located next to the National Gallery in Ottawa. However, the main reason to enjoy this album is its gorgeous, enveloping and at times almost languorous jazz grooves. 

There are sounds and surprises throughout, like a clean and efficient guitar solo from Manu Codjia that, suddenly and unexpectedly, has some fuzz attached to it and veers off in a different direction. Roberto Negro plays a whimsical yet focused piano solo for the first half of Memento Pt.II which moves into an almost cacophonous percussion section. 

This is Parisien’s 11th album and he wrote five of the nine tunes. His soprano sax playing is delicious, with a touch of Steve Lacey and an ability to hop lightly through one piece or turn a corner and play some serious lines in another such as Jojo, a scorching bop tune. To use an old school analogy, wherever you let the needle drop in this album, you will be entranced by the atmosphere and intensity created by this quintet of superb musicians.

17 Ensemble SupermusiqueSonne l’image
Ensemble SuperMusique
Ambiances Magnétique AM 266 CD (ambiances-magnetiques.bandcamp.com) 

Sometimes, the smallest tidbit of context can make a world of difference when it comes to interpreting art. One illustrative example that comes to mind is the powerful 1997 Derek Bailey and Min Tanaka Music and Dance album, where the listener is primarily attuned to Bailey’s guitar playing but even just a working knowledge of Tanaka’s presence helps establish a real-world setting in the mind of the listener. 

Similarly, Ensemble SuperMusique’s 2019 Montreal Sonne l’image performance is also one of a multidisciplinary nature, and there is something about that framing that feels critical. Even if one doesn’t get their hands on a CD where the visual scores themselves are provided, the music takes on a new shape when the imagination can vaguely infer the imagery that is being responded to. This phenomenon speaks to a desire the spectator has to feel connected to the process itself, where the stage almost seems to disappear and the hierarchy of a concert hall vanishes. But what happens when one chooses to listen ignorantly, fixating on what we’ve been given rather than extrapolating? 

The music itself has a definite determinate sway to it in terms of duration and select composed passages, but this is an inspiring display of collective improvisation. Throughout three movements, all individual elements are interwoven but there is never overt disruption. Everyone breathes together, and nobody takes a solo. Communal contributions take precedence over individual objectives. Patience and timing ensures fluidity.

18a Ansible Future MoonsFuture Moons
Adams, Dunn & Haas
Ansible Editions 002 

727 / 16
High Alpine Hut Network
Ansible Editions 001 (ansibleeditions.com)

As one of three brilliant (and radically different) recorded collections of improvised sonic experimentation released to kickstart the new Ansible Editions label, Future Moons sets itself apart by being a truly profound headphone experience. Due to the nature of the deep textural well the trio is drawing from, the abundance of information demands to be rigorously curated and Jeff McMurrich’s strikingly intimate mix captures the holistic picture with astounding clarity. The left and right channels are in sustained dialogue, and this exemplary balance gives the impression that one is becoming increasingly enveloped in the band’s shifting evocations of colour. The pieces traverse through so many contrasting spaces, that the urge to distinguish between starting point and landing place gets completely eviscerated. The track Soft Nebula (to me, a microcosm of this entire project) makes one’s head spin; the mind keeping pace with the curveballs it throws feels like an impossibility despite clocking in at less than two minutes. The jarring timing of that initial fade-in implies that the session commenced long before the spectator sauntered into the studio. Kieran Adams (percussion), Matthew Dunn (soundscapes) and Andy Haas (woodwinds) promptly alternate setting their own infernos, in the order I named them. The final second feels like a fourth-wall break; it’s an indelible event. Depending on how one chooses to approach this work, Future Moons can be filled with those instances. 

18b Ansible High AlpineElsewhere (in an adjacent galaxy), you have 727/16, a relatively brief dizzying flurry, consisting of several dizzying flurries. Structurally, it’s everywhere at once in a given moment but it never feels disjointed in its focus or intent; in fact, quite the contrary. It takes the concept of “fusion” as a loose genre-descriptor and runs the length of the globe with it. Jazz-house-ambient-noise-progressive-funk-dub is my best attempt at coining a suitable term for what I’m hearing, which just goes to show how comically obsolete this compartmentalization process can be when an ensemble draws from such a wide array of influences. High Alpine Hut Network was founded by Christopher Shannon and Benjamin Pullia with the original intent on experimenting with house music, but the personnel of the band subsequently quadrupled in size, and by extension so did the stylistic scope of the project. 

727/16 clocks in at 20 minutes, with enough ingenuity and exploration to warrant about three times that length. The way it manages to cover the amount of ground it does with such staggering efficiency is with steady, unrelenting forward motion at a breakneck pace. If the listener so much as blinks, they’ll miss a handful of sections, especially during the erratic opening track. 727 starts the way 16 ends, with a pulsating drone that eventually reveals an ethereal synth ostinato, patiently panning left and right as the listener gradually becomes aware of its presence. This moment of tranquility is particularly striking when contextualized within the glorious storm it bookends.

01 RadiaOf Glow and Abandon
Independent (ryandavisviola.com) 

Viola is one of those instruments that is loved by many but remains somewhat underrepresented in a variety of musical contexts. Ryan Davis aka Radia puts a glowing spotlight on it here, showcasing multitudes of colours and possibilities, and does so with much skill and imagination. The whole world is wrapped up within 16 minutes of music, a world so engaging that the listener is left wishing for more.

Radia is a one-man band – Davis plays his viola with abandon but he also does electronics, looping and beats, creating music that crosses genres easily. The blend of classical, electronics, folk and hip-hop elements creates a unique and accessible voice. Davis’ tone is dark and beautiful, sweet, resonant. His compositions are flowing from one to another meaningfully, as if he is leading us through some secret passageway. 

Of Glow & Abandon opens with the sorrowful and poetic Dreaming, After All. There are neither electronics nor beats here, only the purity of sound and expression, the lone viola voice that pleads and sings and dreams. It segues into Blood Orange seamlessly and the mood lightens up with viola pizzicatos and beats. Davis continues building up the sound and energy, adding more beats and more soaring melodies in Colour You Like, and the mood grows into a dancing joy. Set a Fire In My Snow concludes this musical narrative in a cinematic ambience. 

Of Glow & Abandon is a glorious ode to the viola and a showcase of one man’s creativity.

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