14 TriioMagnetic Dreaming
ER ER005 (alexfournier.bandcamp.com)

Extended plays can often be too concise, tapering off right as they begin, inviting a listener too late to an event that had long reached its peak. Triio’s Magnetic Dreaming follows you from the beginning, immediately arresting by means of hypnosis; vibraphone suggestions over chill-inducing ambient guitar swells. The music itself is a six-part suite – recorded during the sessions of last year’s longer Six-ish Plateaus – and rather than sounding like an accessory, it absolutely flourishes on its own terms. Its form is said to be influenced by “dream logic,” which is almost a perfect description of these woozy yet gentle transitions between states of consciousness. Each passage blends into the next with incredible patience, leaving one to float between its many dimensions, completely oblivious to where they just arrived from.

Alex Fournier’s steady bass intro on the climactic What Cycle or Identity, in Lie Group or Waking sounds like it’s emanating from the core of the Earth, creating a strong sense of unease that clenches the gut. As Stefan Hegerat’s drum groove borders increasingly on live turntablism, Bea Labikova and Naomi Carroll-Butler’s dual saxophone-clarinet attack remains steadfast; apocalyptic whispers piercing through a warm film noir fog. Tom Fleming (guitar) and Michael Davidson (vibraphone) lay an intoxicating foundation on the EP’s intro that, when scrubbing through each track, flows into each subsequent second supernaturally, with every drone feeling like a return flight to the mothership.

15 Brad TurnerThe Magnificent
Brad Turner Quintet
Cellar Music CM011523 (cellarlive.com)

All nine of the compositions here were penned by Brad Turner, with Cory Weeds and Turner producing. The title is an homage to a late great trumpeter, harkening back to the 1956 Blue Note release, The Magnificent Thad Jones. For this project, Weeds encouraged Turner to select a “band of his dreams” which, in addition to Turner on piano and trumpet, includes Weeds on tenor saxophone, Peter Bernstein on guitar, Neil Swainson on bass and Quincy Davis on drums.

 First up is the melodic You’re OK, replete with a stunner of a trumpet solo from Turner. His tone, intonation, ideas, expressiveness and sheer technical skill are mesmerizing. The equally gifted Bernstein seems to sing through his guitar, using all of the possible emotional colours. Next is Barney’s Castle – an up-tempo, bop burner, in which the ensemble moves as a one-celled organism, gliding through dynamic, unison horn lines. Weed’s exquisite sound and rhythmic sensibility create a heady mix and Davis masterfully drives the ensemble down the pike, while Swainson establishes the tempo in his unique, potent way. 

Another standout is the languid and sultry Virtue Signals. Turner has said that this track is “simply a complete chromatic scale (though ornamented and disguised) in descent” – and yet the lithe beauty of the composition is palpable. Bernstein shines here, as does Turner on piano. The title track does not disappoint, and the cohesion of the musicians’ ideas and approach are nothing short of luminous. A true highlight is the almost unbearably gorgeous Theme for Jocie – a ballad written for Turner’s partner and fellow trumpeter Jocelyn Waugh, where Turner wraps his warm, evocative, trumpet sound around every note.

16 Rubim di ToledoThe Drip
Rubim de Toledo
Independent (rubim.com)

If there exists one word to try and encapsulate the sheer abundance of groove in The Drip, it would be “punch” (“pop” would be a close second). In any case, this descriptor would need to be of the onomatopoeic variety, because this album is a verb, not a noun. Nine tracks of back-to-back-to-back momentum and drive, every break in the sonic stream implies re-entry. Syncopated bliss, tracks like Rhythm Chante deploy Karimah’s repeated phrases and Audrey Ochoa’s staccato trombone blasts to paint the proverbial town electric. One cannot help but feel that the totality of this experience is tailor-made to be taken beyond the studio, into a live space befitting its live energy. 

Switching between upright and electric bass, Rubim de Toledo is a curator of low end, opting with upright when more percussive attack is desired, and amping up when emphatically doubling horn lines. Across this galaxy of funk, it is de Toledo that remains integral to the sound of the ensemble. As much as there are standout tracks throughout, the elephant in the room here is certainly The Long Way (Up). Contrasting beautifully against the gauntlet of upbeat punchiness that proceeds it, this song has a very minimalist intro courtesy of guitarist Felix Tellez’s sustained arpeggios and Jamie Cooper’s ride cymbal alchemy. Just as that initial build to a climax begins to feel inevitable, Rubim de Toledo yanks on the reins and brings us home.

17 Allemano CanonsCanons
Lina Allemano
Lumo Records LM 2023-15 (linaallemano.bandcamp.com)

Trumpeter/composer Lina Allemano’s interest in the canon form, in which parts are repeated exactly within a composition, surfaced on her recent quartet CD, Pipe Dream, but here the form appears in various permutations, both in composed works with elements of improvisation and a series of improvisations by BLOOP, Allemano’s duo with Mike Smith contributing live processing and effects. While some playfulness is evident, Allemano’s expressive focus provides reflective balance.     

The opening 3 Trumpet Canon introduces a pattern of expanding complexity, one overdubbed trumpet following another until the initiating horn is sputtering a series of barely articulated sounds, the other parts following. There’s more playful creativity with German trombonist Matthias Müller as he and Allemano match wits on the duet of Canon of Sorts, while Bobby’s Canon, with cellist Peggy Lee and clarinetist Brodie West, is elegant chamber music. Butterscones and Twinkle Tones, with frequent collaborators bassist Rob Clutton, synthesist Ryan Driver and guitarist Tim Posgate emphasize collective creativity. 

The alternating improvised tracks by BLOOP are highlights, with Allemano’s spontaneous melodies “canonized” and altered in Mike Smith’s electronic repetitions and distortions, whether he’s slowing down the trumpeter’s phrases on Shadows or distorting and muffling her phrases within seconds of Wilds’ outset. On Moons, Smith turns Allemano’s shifting phrases and tonal explorations into a compound canon, while the concluding Ponds is also the richest track, with the keening lyricism of her trumpet lines multiplying in a warm universe.

Lina Allemano; Uwe Oberg; Matthias Bauer; Rudi Fischerlehner
Creatives Sources CD 777 CD (creativesourcesrec.com)

Having fully integrated herself into the burgeoning Berlin free improv scene, Toronto trumpeter Lina Allemano helps make SOG a memorable instance of stretching instruments to their limits without losing cadenced evolution. Associates are Germans, bassist Matthias Bauer and pianist Uwe Oberg and Austrian percussionist Rudi Fischerlehner.

Consisting of three extended tracks and a brief encore, the music touches on delicacy as well as dissonance. The former quality is expressed when focused trumpet grace notes brush up again chiming piano lines promoting quiet interludes among the generally invigorating sounds. A colourist, Fischerlehner’s wooden clave slaps, bell shakes and idiophone rattles pace the expositions, while Bauer’s sluicing bass line provides a proper pulse. That leaves space for Oberg and Allemano, who take full advantage.

Expressive at varied tempos, the pianist sweeps from singular clips to extended glissandi with ping-ponging emphasis maintaining linear flow. Allemano meets Oberg and Fischerlehner’s rhythmic animation on Il Vortice with squeaky slides and bitten off single notes. The extended El Remolino finds her intermittently exposing the melody above drum punches and keyboard rumbles as she slides through a practice book of technical development including hand-muted squalls, clenched teeth growls and half-valve spits. Like Oberg though she makes the exposition less about technique and more about emotional transference.

There’s no indication of what SOG translates to in any language. Maybe it stands for Session Obviously Good – but that slogan might itself be too limiting.

19 Angelica SanchezNighttime Creatures
Angelica Sanchez Nonet
Pyroclastic Records PR30 (pyroclasticrecords.com)

Expatriate Canadian Kris Davis is developing her Pyroclastic record label into a stellar chronicle of a contemporary jazz idiom that’s often as distinguished by compositional content as improvisatory flair. The latest enlistee is Angelica Sanchez, a fellow pianist-composer whose intensely lyrical small-group work has been documented over the past two decades. Here Sanchez makes a dramatic leap as a composer, writing for a nine-member ensemble, while drawing inspiration from a nocturnal forest far from her New York City home. 

Rather than typical nocturnes, Sanchez’s compositions abound with contrast, from subtle dissonances to complex rhythmic overlays. There is a jagged spikiness to C.B. the Time-Traveler and waves of dissonant polyphony on Land Here, all of it somehow framed in discovery and surprise. Ring Leader moves from a rhythmically even guitar line with sudden brass punctuations to an improvised duet of multiphonic tenor saxophone and drums. 

While her fleetly inventive, sometimes multi-directional piano can come to the fore, Sanchez also surrounds herself with musicians whose individual voices go beyond ensemble skills, including saxophonists Michaël Attias and Chris Speed. Two musicians bring particularly unusual instruments to both ensemble and solo roles, Ben Goldberg his contra alto clarinet and Thomas Heberer his quarter tone trumpet.    

Occasionally referencing Carla Bley, Sanchez also includes works by two other composers, performing Duke Ellington’s Lady of the Lavender Mist and Chilean composer Armando Carvajal’s Tristeza, a mysterious wandering through the ensemble’s individual voice before an ultimate collective theme statement.

20 tyshawn continuingContinuing
Tyshawn Sorey Trio
Pi Recordings 98 (pirecordings.com)

In 2022 drummer/composer Tyshawn Sorey, largely associated with extended composition and cutting-edge free jazz, added another dimension to his wide-ranging practice, creating a traditional jazz trio with pianist Aaron Diehl and bassist Matt Brewer to explore the broad repertoire of mainstream modern jazz. It began with Mesmerism and continues here. 

The trio emphasizes understated virtuosity, developing themes with an almost orchestral feel, reminiscent of classic piano trios led by Duke Ellington, Ahmad Jamal and Red Garland in ways that expand both form and interaction. The possibilities for depth are enhanced by slower tempos and extended lengths (from 10’25“ to 15’43”). The trio isn’t simply playing these pieces: they inhabit them.     

Wayne Shorter’s Reincarnation Blues is magisterially slow, the tempo emphasizing the precise sonority of each instrument, represented almost equally in the mix, Diehl’s punctuating chords and phrases delivered with trumpet-like brightness. By the conclusion, the listener is swimming in Diehl’s dense arpeggios and clusters while Sorey and Brewer maintain a rock-solid architecture. The program only gets richer with Ahmad Jamal’s Seleritus, at once elegant and spare, initially highlighting Brewer’s bass. Matt Dennis’ Angel Eyes resides in a tradition of exalted ballads, while In What Direction Are You Headed? by the late pianist Harold Mabern, a teacher of Sorey to whom this CD is dedicated, demonstrates the persistent relevance of classic soul jazz, as codified by Horace Silver and Bobby Timmons.    

Like its predecessor, Continuing is music to be savoured.

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