09 Dan Pitt TrioStages
Dan Pitt Trio
Independent (dan-pitt.com)

During Part Two, there is a realization one may arrive at; where it becomes clear that bassist Alex Fournier will indeed have to halt his climb up the thumb register at some point. When that simple, descending two-note phrase adds a skip with its last few repetitions before finally falling back on its sustained apex, it feels like the musical equivalent of holding a person’s gaze. Guitarist Dan Pitt and drummer Nick Fraser then promptly enter the canvas, as if occupying the same mind. This entrance occurs mid-trill, prompting one to rewind the track and locate the exact source of the inciting gesture. The snaking 11-beat pattern that follows serves as the backdrop for continued Fournier arco explorations, cyclical and possessing the assurance of having always occupied its indelible spot in the piece’s conscience. The pattern begins to open up gradually, with Pitt emphasizing offbeats and Fraser dropping open cymbal hits like stones in a glassy stream. Synchronized with this increased generosity, Fournier begins to show his hand as well, weaving what will become the primary motif into his solo.

Part Two is Stages’ shortest song, and a great chunk of its runtime is Fournier’s intro, but it encapsulates the album’s overall tendencies. Gentle, satisfying phrases are meditated on for stretches that manipulate a listener’s time perception, gliding along an axis with ease while each musician applies careful changes with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it subtlety. This music feels truly nurtured.

10 Daniel HersogOpen Spaces – Folk Songs Reimagined
Daniel Hersog Jazz Orchestra
Cellar Music CMR010123 (cellarlive.com)

Vancouver-based composer, arranger, trumpeter and conductor Daniel Hersog leads a 17-musician ensemble in his renditions of four well-known folk songs, and six of his own compositions on this, his second album. Recorded in Vancouver, Hersog’s takes on the familiar folk tunes are varied, musical, jazz flavoured, improvised, yet always true to the original and all performed perfectly.

Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is given a jazz rendition with classical orchestration and harmonies. Held notes lead to Lightfoot’s memorable melody, repeated with gradual entrance of jazzy countermelodies and variations performed by Dan Weiss’ lively drums, Noah Preminger’s improvised tenor horn solo, Kurt Rosenwinkel’s solo/comping guitar and Frank Carlberg’s flourishing piano solo. A brief silence leads to closing gradual instrumental entrances of legato high-pitched rhythmic lines and held-note melody. Unbelievable how respectful, sad and beautiful this all is. 

Hersog’s adaptation of Red River Valley features repeated bass notes from Kim Cass, full orchestra theme and alternating solos, with Rosenwinkle’s guitar leading back to the famous song, now a big surprise, sung by the musicians to closing loud full orchestra and drum cymbal crashes. How Many Roads is Hersog’s self-described “re-composed” version of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. His Dylan melody sounds simultaneously familiar yet different, especially in the calming yet fast colourful Carlberg piano solo above Weiss’ drum rolls and orchestral glissandos. Hersog’s compositions are equally enjoyable. Rentrer opening Cass bass line is so intriguing, followed by lengthy colourful orchestral lines and solos. Hersog provides so much space for his musicians to improvise, and there’s so much musical fun for everyone!!

11 Projet Seb ParentProjet Seb Parent
Sébastian Parent
Independent (projetsebparent.bandcamp.com)

Projet Seb Parent, the debut album of Montreal-based drummer Sébastien Parent, leaves the impression of being long in the making. Tight jabs and stabs from the astonishingly cohesive 13-piece horn section inject the most tranquil of rhythm section passages with adrenaline. These sudden shots are surges of pure energy and chutzpah that leave pregnant pauses in between; fleeting voids of suggestion, soon to be realized. This method of tireless tension building through choreographed involvement places Projet Seb Parent on the small ensemble-big band continuum, clueing in while never quite revealing its exact coordinates. The results of Parent’s distinct sound facilitating style: a gleeful grab bag of tuneful goodies that feel equal parts organized and unrestrained. 

Mont Saint-Bruno features acoustic fingerpicking, an irresistible shuffle beat, a whimsical trombone melody and an assertive slide guitar solo played by Patrick Bourdon. Bling Bling’s unabashed usage of 808s, choppy horns and sub bass simultaneously conjures the approaching menace of a Metro Boomin intro, the vigour of a Comet is Coming beat and bravado of your local brass band. Station Du Collège is an absolute highlight, with Parent himself helming an elusive groove reminiscent of early Tune-Yards, not ever quite fully swinging or straight, which makes the song itself feel like it’s constantly lurching forward and backward; reflecting the profoundly danceable quality this whole album possesses.

12 AllochtonePlaît-il
Tour der bras tdb 000067cd (tourdebras.com)

Quebec-recorded, but ingeniously expressing its so-called foreign background with a band name that translates as non-native person, Allochtone uniquely mixes currents of electronica, rock, folk and free jazz. Created at the Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska music camp, 195 kilometres north of Quebec City, the group includes local percussionist/turntablist Rémi Leclerc; pianist André Pelletier from Saint-Pascal; guitarist Olivier D’Amours and accordionist Robin Servant from Rimouski; Montreal bassist Alexandre Dubuc and Parisian Cathy Heyden playing alto saxophone and bagpipe chanter.

Each musician also uses some version of electronic instruments giving the eight selections electro-acoustic timbres that are as much otherworldly as they are terrestrial. The result can range from strained reed squeals, piano clicks and tremolo accordion vibrations meeting voltage buzzes and blats or keyboard clusters and metallic guitar flanges establishing a linear theme which must balance on top of consistent electronic drones. Throughout, almost ceaseless percussion ruffs are as prominent as programmed oscillations and stop-start voltage buzzing. Leclerc’s vinyl manipulation also means that tracks like rouge interject snatches of bel canto singing and backwards running syllables into the electronic- and percussion-dominated mix. The tracks aren’t all opaque however. The occasional calliope-like accordion squeeze and slide-whistle or split tone reed trill adds needed airiness at certain junctions.

As an exercise in group improvisation fusing multiple sonic streams, Plaît-il achieves its goals. But more indications of what each musician can contribute individually could have prevented some sequences from descending into near-impenetrable density and lightened the mood.

13 Jeb PattonJeb Patton – Preludes
Jeb Patton; John Ellis; David Wong; Quincy Davis
Cellar Music CM091822 (cellarlive.com)

New York-based pianist Jeb Patton has made a name for himself in the jazz world, having played with famed acts such as Etta Jones, George Coleman, the Dizzy Gillespie All Stars and many more. On this latest release though, we see Patton’s compositional and musical talents really shine. The album is chock-full of tunes composed by the pianist himself and features an all-star group of musicians backing him, with renowned names such as Mike Rodriguez on horns, Quincy Davis on drums and David Wong on bass. Born during the dreary times of the pandemic, the record is overflowing with creativity and brings a true, enjoyable musical experience. 

Patton grew up in a household where both classical music and jazz were deeply appreciated, with his father being a self-taught pianist. We often think of there being a very strict divisional line between classical and jazz, that the two don’t really ever mix and that mindset is just what Patton sets out to change throughout this record. Inspired by his childhood, each of these songs features notable technical elements we would usually hear in classical music blended in seamlessly with swing rhythms and mellow horn solos attributed to jazz. The result? A terrific record end-to-end, showcasing Patton’s proficiency in genre-crossing and blurring that distinct line between the two genres. A fantastic record for jazz lovers that love broadening their horizons and delving into new musical territories that they have yet to explore.

14 CounterclockCounterclock
Clark Gibson; Sean Jones; Michael Dease; Lewis Nash; Nick Mancini
Cellar Music CMR111022 (cellarlive.com)

Renowned jazz saxophonist, educator and composer Clark Gibson’s latest release is a toe-tapping pick-me-up and a breath of musical fresh air. Featuring a roster of talented musicians such as Sean Jones on trumpet, Pat Bianchi on organ and Nick Mancini on vibraphone, Gibson’s sweeping saxophone riffs are supported by a fantastic backing band. This fourth release includes songs that are penned and arranged, for the most part, by the stellar musician himself and his talents as a composer are truly highlighted throughout the record. For those jazz aficionados that like a fresh, modern take on a traditional jazz sound, this is definitely one for your collection. 

Gibson reflects, “Counterclock refers to looking back and not discounting art you created in your early stages as an artist.” The focus of the album, then, is how the saxophonist came to embrace his compositions from the time that he was just starting out. Throughout the tunes there is a definite continuous, broader theme of “looking back to yesteryear,” a hark back to the traditional and appreciating the roots of modern jazz music and many of the greats. Gibson and band have a knack for finding the perfect balance of classic and current, enlivening that jazz sound we’ve all come to know and love yet adding just enough of a contemporary twist to bring it into today’s musical landscape. From start to finish, this album is a sonically pleasing, immersive and snazzy musical journey.

15 Vincente ArcherShort Stories
Vicente Archer; Gerald Clayton; Bill Stewart
Cellar Music CM060922 (cellarlive.com)

New York City-based bassist and composer, Vincente Archer is a bit of a gifted chameleon, and with the release of his first recording as a leader Archer feels that he has finally revealeds his authentic self – personally and musically. Archer’s inspired collaborators here include pianist Gerald Clayton and drummer Bill Stewart. This compelling project was propelled by executive producer Cory Weeds, along with producer and noted trumpeter Jeremy Pelt. With the exception of three tracks, all compositions were created by the gifted triumvirate. 

First up is Mirai (Archer), a gossamer-like jazz ballad, replete with a steady, heartbeat of bass punctuated by contrapuntal electric and acoustic piano work from Clayton and incredibly sensitive and yet powerful drumming by Stewart. Clayton’s Round Comes Round follows with boppish motifs coming into play, along with a dizzying piano intro by Clayton, followed by a symbiotic entrance of bass and drums. The trio seems to communicate with pure telepathy here, and the ESP continues in the form of a sinuous bass solo and superb, nuanced drumming from Stewart. 

Another of Archer’s tunes, Lighthouse, is an energizing highlight, featuring Archer’s lithe fingers flying across the bass fingerboard and laying it down with his unique voice. Of rare beauty is Stewart’s Drop of Dusk which exemplifies the “art of the trio” – replete with its stirring, Romantic sub-text, punctuated by brilliant, complex piano work from Clayton. On every track here, Archer’s bass sings and deftly touches those deep, subcutaneous parts of us that are shared by all human beings, underscoring and celebrating our one-ness. The only flaw with Short Stories is that the stories should be longer!

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