Trying to release more music than fits on a conventional album has been a situation artists have faced since the invention of recorded music. Although advances in technology now offer more space; exposing multiple artists’ ideas and/or exhibiting the scope of a career, call for more than one disc. That’s what these multiple disc sessions offer.

01 SupremeLoveBorn in 1942, UK saxophonist Alan Skidmore’s career has encompassed mainstream jazz with big bands and combos; studio work; R&B bands; early fusion; exploratory free music; and contemporary improvisation. Like players such as New York’s Dave Liebman and Toronto’s Pat LaBarbera, John Coltrane’s influence has been Skidmore’s touchstone. A Supreme Love (Confront Core Series Core 33 shows his adaptation of the style in various settings on six CDs and 46 tracks from 1961 to 2019. If there’s one axiom that’s clear from the discs, it’s that Skidmore does his best work when challenged by other strong personalities, rather than being the focus of attention. Despite notable excursions on soprano saxophone, his most assured playing also a comes as a tenor saxophonist. While there may be a few too many tunes associated with Coltrane here, Skidmore’s are honest interpretations with flashes of originality. His ballad style on song standards can’t be faulted, but a combination of familiar material played with lugubrious sounding usually Continental big bands weighs down the performances. Two one-offs are particularly instructive. During a 1971 jam with Weather Report – keyboardist Joe Zawinul, percussionists Alphonse Mouzon and Dom Um Romao, soprano saxophonist Wayne Shorter and bassist Miroslav Vitous – his building solos help push the others towards unhyphenated pure jazz not the slicker fusion tropes dominated by keyboard tinctures the band helped to create and solidify. Seventeen years later he jammed with Elvin Jones, the drummer in Coltrane’s classic quartet on a simple blues, where he faced off against tenor saxophonist Sonny Fortune of the drummer’s working group. Propelled by Jones’ faultless beat that dovetails into an extended and propulsive solo, Skidmore demonstrates how he could have fit in Trane’s bands. Still, the most distinctive playing is in tracks featuring the all-saxophone free music SOS trio with himself, alto saxophonist Mike Osborne and baritone/soprano saxophonist John Surman; and a brief reprise with just Surman; quintet improv alongside Canadian trumpeter Kenny Wheeler in 1969 and 1980; plus fruitful individual meetings with fellow tenor saxophonist Paul Dunmall or drummer Tony Levin. Harmonized, 1974’s Country Dance by SOS shows how reed blending creates sounds both Arcadian and avant. The 1991 Skidmore-Surman three-track reunion is more coordinated, faster-paced bluesier and jazzier. The Wheeler tracks were the height of modernity in 1969 with the trumpeter more ebullient than remembered, a fiery rhythm section and the saxophonist negotiating the evolution from emotional hard bop to the ping-ponging textures of free jazz. By 1980, playing his own Just Once with a more intense rhythm team, Skidmore pushes himself further outside with bent notes and smears as Wheeler squeaks out positioned triplets, although exploratory sounds are embedded within linear evolution. Oxford Road #13 with Levin and Skidmore both initially playing percussion instruments, until Skidmore trills and snorts out the extended exposition on sax, confirms that in 1977 he was still exploring new sounds and methods. Dunmall, slightly younger than Skidmore, but whose style comes out of Coltrane as well, is emboldened by the backing of long-time associates Levin and bassist Paul Rogers on 1985’s Modal Tonic. The friendly battle includes a roistering drum detonation, features enough ferocious reed bites, wide cadenzas and soaring squeaks to satisfy any Postmodern sax fancier and climaxes with a distinctive a cappella face off with each saxist vying to outdo the other in invention. Leapfrog to 2019 and another rhythm section backs Skidmore, tenor saxophonists Ed Jones, Howard Cottle, other Trane interpreters during more than 30 minutes of intense deconstruction of two Coltrane classics. Energetic, with pianist Steve Melling’s dynamic note clipping spurring them on, dynamic motions define each player’s soloing until all reach the heights of near sonic ecstasy while maintaining the tunes’ thematic nubs. 

02 HarmosTaking place over three days in Kraków rather than multiple decades, The Small Group Formations (NotTwo MW 1027-2 is a slightly misnamed six-CD set celebrating the 50th anniversary of bassist Barry Guy’s London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO).  Consisting of 17 musicians from Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Norway, France and the UK, the first four discs showcase the dazzling and intricate styles of individual LJCO members in formations ranging from duos to sextets, while the final discs are full-band performances of Guy’s compositions, Flow I and Flow II and Harmos–Kraków. Especially on the latter piece, singular reflections such as Swiss percussionist Lucas Niggli’s brace of noise makers couple with linear ruffs; German Konrad Bauer’s and Brit Alan Tomlinson’s bouncing flutters and portamento blasts; Spanish pianist Agustí Fernández’s sly comping; and UK tenor saxophonist Simon Picard’s linear routes contrasted with Swiss alto saxophonist Jürg Wickihalder’s more delicate options are expressed in solo breaks that are brief but more orchestrally integrated than in the smaller formation. Harmos–Kraków is arranged with a symphonic flair, linking the leitmotifs of the initial theme statement which appear through to compositional evolution and a restatement at the climax. Plus the additional players mean that the program includes as many passages of polyphonic connective swing as miasmatic fragmentation and exuberance. Interludes include heraldic fanfares from the six-member brass section and screaming and sway group section work from the five-person reed section. There’s slightly less intensity on the two Flow variations. But that’s before the entire group is involved in dynamic interpretations including a reed overlay of honks and smears, shuddering brass triplets and slick piano glissandi, the piece begins as a face-off between Guy’s moderated, but rugged double bass thumps and slaps and stunning string bending from violinist Phil Wachsmann involving whiny spiccato runs, pizzicato plucks and picking and a brief hoedown pivot. Overall, the set provides a complete LJCO sound picture in micro and macro forms.

03 LiveAtSimilar instrumental virtuosity, but expressed in a minimalist fashion, is what distinguishes next generation improvisers from those of the LJCO as the three-CD set Live at Plus-Etage Volume 1 (New Wave of Jazz nwoj 0060 demonstrates. The duos of trumpeter/flugelhornist Charlotte Keeffe and drummer Andrew Lisle from the UK; double bassists Martina Verhoeven from Belgum and Portuguese Gonçalo Almeida; and the trio of Belgian guitarist Dirk Serries, UK violist Benedict Taylor and German saxophonist Stefan Keune show that collaborating improvisers are as international as always and with one CD for each configuration, all have space to display what they can do. Except for an unaccompanied interlude of cymbal vibrations and drum rumbles during the second and concluding set Lisle mostly limits himself to claves-like resonations, bass drum plops and rim shots accents. That way the figurative spotlight shines on Keeffe’s brass prestidigitation. Emphasizing non-valve movement breaths, broken-chord smears, aviary-like peeps, throaty squalls and tremolo brassiness her spikey asides don’t preclude portamento affiliation however. As much as her tongue jujutsu, swerves and swallows exposing usually unexplored inner portions of her horn’s lead pipe for unexpected tone variations each time sections are repeated, passages of near-lyrical melodies and feathery brassiness are also heard. Vaguely related to the William Tell Overture, a riff that gallops through her improvised variations during the first set is sounded again before the concert is completed adding a connective leitmotif. Contrasting arco and pizzicato techniques characterize the Verhoeven/Almeida single track as they constantly switch roles with buzzing spiccato tones from whistling screams to woody rubs met with repeated strums and lowing stops that sometimes approximate a washtub bass’ single-string thud. More sophisticated than that primitivism, the sequences include interludes of ratcheting slices, string pops, vibration of implements placed among the strings, and heightened pressure that suggests the bow is cutting through the instrument’s wood finish. During the penultimate section bell shakes and ratcheting whirs add novel patterns as stropped strings expose the highest pitches and col legno pops the lowest. Eventually billowing arco strokes are heard from both, which gradually fade from staccato to connective. Interestingly enough, the two improvisations from three players seem most separated. The transformative program includes multiple instances of almost complete silence, while, except near the conclusion where Serries unleashes a string of mandolin-like twangs, the guitarist restricts himself to connective comping. Emphasis is on how Keune’s often singular irregularly vibrated split tones and narrowed peeps meet Taylor’s equally jagged bow slices, stops and sul tasto pressure. Although the two confront one another head on at intervals, fury among the calm is commonly given over to sequential timbral elaboration. Emphasizing melodic and rhythmic ambiguity, alternating expressions include the saxophonist’s dexterous bubbling trills, tongue stops and vibrated tone scoops, while the violist’s strained glissandi and squeaky rests are as distinctive as they are numerous. Preceding and expanding on the guitarist’s one showcase, linear advancement is emphasized in a climatic motif as pointed string scrubs, reed whorls and finger-style guitar chords are patched together. 

Sometimes exemplary creativity must be expressed in larger than usual forms and these multiple sets prove that truism.

01 Fuat TuacImmigrant
Fuat Tuaç; Kevin Turcotte; Eric St-Laurent; Jordon O’Connor; Eric West
Independent (

Accomplished, multi-lingual vocalist and composer, Fuat Tuaç, has just released his new CD, and it does not disappoint. Tuaç wears several hats here, as composer, arranger, producer and artist. He has also surrounded himself with his talented long-time collaborators, guitarist Eric St-Laurent, bassist Jordan O’Connor, drummer Eric West and trumpeter Kevin Turcotte. As the title would suggest, Tuaç explores his Canadian immigrant experience here, as well as the contemporary social ethos in the depersonalized era of technology. Included in this well-crafted project are two vocal duets: the sexy cool Chez Moi, sung en française with the exquisite Montreal-based chanteuse, Kim Richardson and Uzun Ince Bir Yoldayim, rendered in exotic, evocative Turkish (Tuaç’s native tongue) and performed to perfection with noted Turkish vocalist, Yesim Akin. Both duets illustrate Tuaç’s taste and musical skill and are highlights of the recording.

The compelling opener, No Strings Attached (a Tuaç original), is a groovy, jazzy ode to the often confusing nature of romantic relationships in these troubled times and Asla Unutamam is a delicious Turko-bossa, featuring a stunner of a trumpet solo from Turcotte. Tuaç soars as a vocalist here – defining his style, sound and approach. The very personal title track is a hopeful, and yet melancholy portrait of the courageous individuals who have eschewed or fled their homeland in order to manifest a life of creative and personal freedom – and the challenges, confusion and joy that is part of that journey. Tuaç imbues the track with his deep emotional experience, as well as a superb vocal. Moss Park… is another standout, a disturbing exploration of our own very Canadian, urban inhumanity.

Listen to 'Immigrant' Now in the Listening Room

02 Peggy Lee BandA Giving Way
Peggy Lee Band
Songlines SSL1636-2 (

The cellist Peggy Lee has been – with The Peggy Lee Band – very prolific in a composing career that has stretched across several years and, with A Giving Way, six riveting albums. Her work is always deeply thoughtful and often radiantly effusive, a sort of synthesis with masses of seething counterpoint set in a seemingly perfect acoustical sound-world. The songs played here are typical of the elegant compositions, innovatively interpretated, with richly laced textures and extravagant climaxes by musicians who – by virtue of their long-term association with Lee – know her music almost intimately.

This is repertoire full of the slithering and bittersweet glissandos of Lee’s cello, the elegant burbling of brass and winds from Brad Turner, Jeremy Berkman and Jon Bentley respectively. Together they make a joyful noise with guitarists Ron Samworth and Tony Wilson, with the tumbling rhythms of André Lachance’s bass guitar and rattle, hum and sizzle of Dylan van der Schyff’s drums and cymbals. 

It is difficult to fathom why Lee is not better known for the eloquence and uniqueness of the music that she creates around the solemn atmosphere of her cello. Perhaps this may have something to do with attempting to define it in terms of this genre or that. However, the uniquely beautiful sonorities of (for instance) Internal Structures, Justice / Honour; even the interpretation of Whispering Pines, and other songs on A Giving Way, show Lee to be an artist with a breathtakingly singular voice.

03 Will BonnessIs This a Dream?
Will Bonness
Manitoba Film & Music (

The fourth album, Is This a Dream? by the pianist and composer Will Bonness, is an outstanding recording, informed by big-hearted originals and standards performed with brazenly romantic beauty. While each of the works is conventional in form, by turns tender and ardently lyrical, and feature the pianist’s favourite vocalist Jocelyn Gould, the head-turners are the seven (of nine numbers) that feature the scintillating young clarinetist Virginia MacDonald, with the inimitable alto saxophonist Allison Au doubling up with MacDonald on the final track, Cole Porter’s Don’t Fence Me In.

Bonness is a pianist with a naturally poetic bent of mind. In his pianism chromatic notes sigh – and often gush effusively – the harmonic cushioning always falling where you least expect it to. This often makes for the kind of surprise you expect, but never know when it will issue from his fluid right-and-left hand combinations. This is what makes his originals – particularly Round and Round and Contraption – full of great tunefulness. Both songs also feature MacDonald who, with her expressively woody clarinet sound, adds emotional depth and rhetorical eloquence to Bonness’ already-rich harmonic language. 

On the album’s finale the music reaches quite another level as Bonness’ score includes an alto saxophone, Au, who responds with glowing tones and the liquid grace of her notes. The album’s superb repertoire is further embellished by bassists Daniel Fortin and Andrew Goodlett and the irrepressible drummer Fabio Ragnelli.

04 Music of Kenny WheelerWho Are You? The Music of Kenny Wheeler
Duncan Hopkins; Reg Schwager; Ted Quinlan; Michel Lambert
Three Pines Records TPR-0015 (

The late Kenny Wheeler (1930-2014) was a Canadian composer and trumpet/flugelhorn player with an international reputation who pushed the boundaries past jazz standards and into free improvisation. He lived most of his life in England and recorded many albums, primarily for the ECM label. 

Who Are You? is Duncan Hopkins’ celebration of Wheeler’s music and includes Reg Schwager and Ted Quinlan on guitars with Michel Lambert on drums while Hopkins holds down the bass duties. Having two excellent guitarists provides an intriguing interpretation of Wheeler’s compositions and the interplay between Schwager and Quinlan creates many musical highlights. For example, their “almost unison” playing enhances Foxy Trot’s up-tempo melody and each solo is excitingly different. 

The final three tracks, MontebelloKitts and Salina St. are named after St. Catharines (aka “Kitts”) and the neighbourhood where both Wheeler and Hopkins lived. Kitts and Salina St. were composed by Wheeler and re-arranged by Hopkins. Montebello is a Hopkins original named after the park at the end of Salina St. where they met. This suite of three songs adds a very personal and delicate touch to the album.

05 Sam DickinsonDon’t Ask Me
Sam Dickinson Trio
Independent (

Don’t Ask Me is an enjoyable album from Toronto guitarist/composer Sam Dickinson who has studied at Humber College, the New England Conservatory, McGill University and received a Doctorate from the University of Miami in 2019. The album is an engaging and diverse set of works displaying his substantial guitar chops. 

Dickinson’s trio includes Jim Vivian on bass, with Adam Arruda and Terry Clarke alternating on drums. South Florida Task Force has a funky 7/4 groove and the guitar part is fusion inspired, effortlessly jumping through lithe melodies. Old Folks is a beautiful piece featuring acoustic guitar which begins slowly as a solo with some jazzy folk chords, then bass and drums enter and it builds into some expressive solo lines. Memory Lane also has some very nice acoustic playing and features Vivian›s bass, initially playing an exquisitely bowed melody and then evolving into intriguing pizzicato lines. Don’t Ask Me is an impressive and assured debut album and we look forward to more work from Dickinson.

06 Artie RothResonants
Artie Roth Quartet
Three Pines Records TPR-0016 (

Resonants has many overarching themes, but sonically one in particular hits the ground running and never looks back: Artie Roth’s bass sounds nothing short of astonishing in this mix. Whether this reality is brought to the actual forefront as on the delicate Sound and Sky or greatly heightening the impact of every single Anthony Michelli drum hit on Refrain, Roth is the bedrock of what gives his group its distinctively substantial and grounded sound. The band itself displays an incredible grasp for mood, accessing a palette that not only delights in its sophistication, but fluctuates considerably between each track with effortless precision. The entire tracklist only consists of two (showstopping) segues, but the thoughtful sequencing and Roth’s refined compositional touch binds Circle Maker and Second Moment together as soulmates. 

Resonance makes up one half of the album’s conceptual namesake (“tenants” is the other), and it is a key element that is manipulated by the entire band to great effect. Soloing throughout is divorced from the idea of isolation that is often associated with the practice, taking the form of calculated traversal through a living soundscape rather than self-contained reactions to a set of harmonic constraints. Sam Dickinson’s guitar work shines in this respect, with active accompaniment that provides a resolute sense of warmth. The most energetic sections are characterized by an irresistible swing, kept page-turning by a constant shifting of beat emphasis, never allowing momentum to yield. Freshness flourishes.

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