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.

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 confrontrecordings.com.bandcamp.com/) 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 Nottwo.com) 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 newwaveofjazz.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-plusetage-volume-1) 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 (fuattuac.bandcamp.com/album/immigrant)

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

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