13 Chet DoxasRich in Symbols II – The Group of Seven, Tom Thomson & Emily Carr
Chet Doxas
Justin Time JTR8636-2 (justin-time.com)

You couldn’t create a more Canadian session than this one involving Montrealer-in-Brooklyn saxophonist/clarinetist Chet Doxas’ modernist musical interpretation of paintings by the Group of Seven, Tom Thomson and Emily Carr. Doxas, who says he hears music whenever he looks at a picture, curates an art gallery’s worth of his own compositions which sonically reflect the mostly rural, remote and rawboned canvases. 

Intriguingly the tracks, which resonate with energetic but understated syncopation due to drummer Eric Doob’s nerve beats and hard ruffs, bassist Zack Lober’s controlled pulse and pianist Jacob Sacks’ calm comping and bent-note accents, reflect both Arcadian and urban impulses. Mellotron fluctuations and electronic whizzes provide an oscillating background for some tunes, while muted old-timey field recordings and echoes and clangs from Joe Grass’ pedal steel or banjo evoke rustic timelessness on others. 

That means a performance like Thomson’s The Jack Pine rotates among preserved radio sax licks and live assertive reed slurs as current drum rumbles overlap shaking steel-guitar licks. Still it ends with irregular tongue stops from Doxas. Or note lap steel echoes which join loon-like cries to describe Lawren Harris’ North Shore, Lake Superior and climax with string-shaking bass and piano harmonies topped by undulating saxophone runs.

CanCon that doesn’t have to apologize for expressing Canuck pride, the rich symbols defined here can be easily appreciated both musically and visually. Plus, the tracks also posit new concepts to consider when you next observe that iconic visual art.

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