12 Andrew RathbunThe Speed of Time
Andrew Rathbun; Gary Versace; John Hebert; Tom Rainey
Steeple Chase SCCD 31950 (andrewrathbun.com)

Andrew Rathbun is a saxophone player and composer who grew up in Toronto, earned a Master’s from the New England Conservatory in Boston and a PhD in Jazz Arts from the Manhattan School of Music. His compositions and performances have appeared on his own and others’ albums for over 20 years. Rathbun states that the works on The Speed of Time are «all connected with how the world has unfolded over the past few years» and are «influenced by the strange fluctuations» of his «perception of time during that period.» 

The Speed of Time offers pieces that are both sophisticated and funky. For example, the title composition has a very grooving piano ostinato that leads to a melodically complex saxophone line; the solos swing while also showing a strong intellectual component. Rathbun has a forceful and urgent tone on tenor sax that is not overblown. Widen the Doorway injects some great sax harmonies to add colour and contains vibrant sax and drum solo work. Rathbun’s soprano sax on Wandering is clear and beautiful. He cites Wayne Shorter as an influence but on Velocity Unknown I also hear the playful lyricism of Steve Lacy. The Speed of Time is an excellent album greatly aided by the subtle and fiery musicianship of Rathbun, Gary Versace (piano) and Tom Rainey (drums).

13 Curtis Nowosad If I HadIf I Had
Curtis Nowosad; Andrew Renfroe; Luke Sellick
Independent (curtisnowosad.com)

Curtis Nowosad, a drummer and composer born in Winnipeg and currently living in New York City, released his first album in 2019. In my WholeNote review of this eponymously titled work I stated its choice of covers such as Gil Scott-Heron’s Home Is Where the Hatred Is and Nina Simone’s Sea Line Woman combined “socially conscious history with assured jazz performances.” 

Nowosad has now released an EP called If I Had containing covers of four songs by Nick Drake (Road), Pete Seeger (If I Had a Hammer), Jimmy Webb (By the Time I Get to Phoenix) and Stevie Wonder (Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away). These choices follow his tradition of mixing great classic songs with ones that are socially conscious. It is a pleasure to listen to these interpretations: Andrew Renfew’s guitar work is gorgeous and really shines on Phoenix while Luke Sellick (bass) and Nowosad (drums) offer complex and solid backing. Nowosad throws in seemingly effortless fills while keeping a solid and funky groove.

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.

Back to top