Canadian and Russian Improvisers

01_Carrier_All_OutUnlike many Canadian improvisers, François Carrier is no homebody. Peripatetic, the Montreal-based alto saxophonist spent months gigging in Italy and England, was one of the few Westerners to play the Kathmandu Jazz Festival, and most recently has put out discs recorded during his 2010 Russian concert tour. A session such as All Out (FMR CD 321-0911, recorded with his long-time associate, Toronto drummer Michel Lambert, and St. Petersburg pianist Alexey Lapin, is not only notable musically, but also shows how erudite players from two of the world’s northern hemisphere nations have much in common.

Carrier’s reed strategy includes elements of Cool Jazz note gliding as well as avant garde dissonance, and the Russian pianist constructs proper responses with alacrity. Ride, for instance, leaves the bomb dropping and clattering to Lambert’s kit as Lapin’s multi-fingered kinetic runs syncopate alongside Carrier’s spiky vibrations and false-register nasality plus dexterous explorations in the tenor register. Despite the saxophonist squeezing out multiple theme variants until he reaches conclusive downward runs, Lapin stays the course with unflappable chording as the drummer balances both men’s lines with military precision. In the solo spotlight, Lambert approximates the power of Art Blakey on Wit with cross-sticking rim shots and bass drum thumps, the better to later mix it up with Lapin’s dynamic cadenzas plus Carrier’s stuttering rubato lines and quivering split tones. The percussionist also asserts himself on Of Breath with a mallet-driven solo of whacks, bangs and ruffs, leading to the crescendo of high intensity further propelled by Lapin’s metronomic pulsing and Carrier’s flattement and triple tonguing.

02_Ex_VotoLambert’s talent is given full reign on the Maïkontron Unit’s Ex-Voto (Rant 1140 Although he and Carrier often seem like the inseparable Damon and Pythias of Canadian Jazz, this trio CD features the drummer with bassist/cellist Pierre Côté and saxophonist/clarinettist Michel Côté. Both Lambert and reedist Côté also play the maïkontron, a valves and keys reed instrument with a range below the bass saxophone’s. Lambert has divided the CD into tableaux based on images from Hieronymus Bosch, although the performance is actually less programmatic than intuitive, with straightforward pulsing as well as dissonant timbre extensions. Despite a forbidding title, a track such as Marinus (Tableau 9) for instance, is an out-and-out swing piece. It features pin-pointed snare work and clean cross sticking from Lambert, unbroken vibrations from the bassist and Michel Côté’s clarinet exploring the theme with mid-range chirping and tonguing. Other tunes such as Votivae Noctes (Tableau 4) are slow paced and constrained, as Côté’s supple clarinet line contrasts markedly with the maïkontron’s blurred snorts and an at first quivering, then walking, cello line from Pierre Côté. As reed split tones accelerate, they’re exposed nakedly beside splayed string motions. The reeds’ burbling and puffing plus the string player’s sul tasto strumming end up creating other tableaux elsewhere, with sly references to half-recalled ballads, or in contrast, intricate multiphonics. Lambert’s drum versatility is given expanded showcases on Fluctus …, the first part of Tableau 10, and Praestigator, the introduction to Tableau 19. Praestigator features kettle drum pops and faux gamelan-like resounds playing off rhino-like snorts from the maïkontron; the irregular counterpoint of Fluctus … matches clarinet shrieks with hand slaps and pats, suggesting congas and steel drums.

02_Melissa_LaurenThe Other Side
Melissa Lauren
Independent ML1111 (

Singer-songwriter Melissa Lauren has been a part of the Toronto music community for a few years now, but with her sophomore release, The Other Side, she’s really making her mark. Lauren has a beguiling voice that mixes sweet playfulness with solid technique, control and range. Which would be plenty, but on top of that she has songwriting abilities that put her in another category from the legion of lovely crooners who enlist others’ work to tell their musical story. Harmonically speaking, Lauren’s songwriting doesn’t push a whole lot of boundaries, and she’s got a clever way with words that goes enough beyond cute to make things interesting without getting overly heavy. All of which suits the breezy, jazzy air of the album. The dozen songs each have a whiff of a bygone era hovering somewhere between the 1930s and the 60s, without being too derivative of any time or genre. So we get a bit of Mancini-esque cool on the opening Art Class, a touch of twangy longing on Somehow, a slightly Eastern European edge to Your Fool and an old tyme rollick from the title track. It all adds up to a special sound, much of the credit for which should be shared with guitarist Nathan Hiltz who is the main instrumental support and negotiates the shifts in style with taste and personality that never overwhelms. The rhythm section is ably rounded out by Ernesto Cervini on drums and Ross MacIntyre on bass. Lauren’s CD release event is March 1 at The Rex in Toronto. Check for details.

Over the past few years as post-modernism has made anything fair game for musical interpretation, sophisticated improviser/composers have taken inspiration from the most unlikely sources, far beyond the motifs, historicism and pastels of earlier times. Canadian bassist in New York Michael Bates for instance, has organized a salute to Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-75), using his own music and variants on the modern Russian composer’s oeuvre. Iconoclastic American composer/saxophonist Fred Ho has produced a five-part suite honouring boxer Muhammad Ali (b.1942) as a militant, outspoken fighter for social justice. The luminous canvases of American visual artist Cy Twombly (1928-2011) stimulate Israeli saxophonist Ariel Shibolet’s creativity, while Polish saxophonist Adam Pierończyk recasts in his own fashion the distinctive film scores of composer Krzysztof Komeda (1931-69).

01_Bates_AcrobatMichael Bates’ masterful arrangements on Acrobat: Music For, and By, Dmitri Shostakovich (Sunnyside SSC 1291 are so perceptive that during the course of nine tracks he almost reveals symphonic colours using only a top-flight quintet: his double bass; the perfectly timed drums of Tom Rainey; Russ Lossing’s shuddering smears from electric and regular pianos; trumpeter Russ Johnson’s brassy blasts; and the fluid lyricism of Chris Speed’s sax and clarinet. This is apparent from the first track, “Dance of Death,” from Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No.2 in E Minor. Very quickly the bouncy melody is transformed with plunger trumpet work and well-modulated reed trills to a motif that’s as much 1970s Miles Davis as it is a mazurka. Later Silent Witness uses fusion references to atmospherically suggest the composer’s Stalin-era paranoia, with Speed’s singular reed slurs becoming progressively lower-pitched and tonal as Rainey`s drums smack and rebound while Lossing’s ratcheting licks make it seem as if he’s playing electric guitar not piano. Held together by Bates’ reliable thumping, the cacophonous final section gives way to repeated theme variations and conclusive keyboard echoes. Elsewhere, with music derived from the Russian composer’s work or not, the tunes use varied strategies. Intermezzos can be atmospheric and formal, with the reedist approximating oboe-like burrs and timed runs arising from Lossing’s acoustic instrument; as loose and swinging as a Benny Goodman-led combo; or exploding with tougher near-Jazz Messengers-like harmonies. Arcangela is another highpoint, allowing both Russes sufficient solo space. The pianist showcases a series of repeated glissandi centred by Bates’ stentorian pulse; while the trumpeter’s capillary slurs evolve into a quicksilver flow cushioned by harmonized keyboard and reed textures. All in all the wrap-around themes simultaneously celebrate Shostakovich’s intent while exposing improvisations that are true to jazz’s ethos.

02_Komeda_PieronczykTransforming the sounds of another musician, whose short-lived but prolific career defined Polish jazz, popular and even notated sounds for years after his untimely death, is the task of Krakow-based tenor and soprano saxophonist Adam Pierończyk on Komeda-The Innocent Sorcerer (JazzWerkstatt JW 104 Luckily he has the help of Brazilian guitarist Nelson Veras, countryman Łukasz Żyta on percussion, including typewriter (!) plus two American veterans, bassist Anthony Cox and tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas. Actually it’s Veras who often sets the pace, since his delicate nylon-string strumming brings a bossa nova-like lilt to, and encourages equivalent horn harmonies on, later-period Komeda tunes like After the Catastrophe. Two of Komeda’s best-known themes are treated most substantially by the quintet: Sleep Safe and Warm used in Rosemary’s Baby and Crazy Girl from Knife in the Water. Typewriter sounds produced by Żyta underlie contrasting rubato split tones from Thomas’ tenor and Pierończyk’s soprano sax obbligato during variants on the first tune. Meanwhile sul ponticello bass work makes the theme more menacing, with the piece reaching a crescendo of sharp guitar licks and overlapping horn parts, drastically truncated as the sound of a typewriter’s carriage return completes the track. Bustling cool jazz-like harmonies give way to contrapuntal horn vamping, rapid twangs from the guitarist and broken-metre drumming on Crazy Girl. With the percussionist waving Latin percussion and Cox sliding up and down his strings, Thomas’ hard-toned blowing and Pierończyk’s parallel tongue fluttering define the song’s repeated motif, as the two reedists circle back to recap and draw out the initial head.

03_Fred_HoMoving on from celebrating masterful musicians’ compositional influences to appreciating the political subtext of someone dubbed “Athlete of the Century,” is The Sweet Science Suite (Mutable/Big Red Media 003, a five-part suite Fred Ho composed for his 19-piece Green Monster Big Band. An activist as well as a musician, Ho’s arrangements are as outstanding and unique as Muhammad Ali’s boxing style. Unafraid of outside references, on Shake up the World the piece’s staccato exposition quotes liberally from Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love for a proper period feel, although that theme is intertwined with vamping section work echoing the Count Basie band, a funky backbeat, fiery brass triplets and a slinky boppish tenor sax solo. Other variants, such as Rope-A-Dope frame Salim Washington’s muscular big-toned tenor saxophone in a lusty big band arrangement that’s part ballad and part free form. Still other tunes expose and bury references to interludes ranging from Chinese court music to American TV show themes, to speeding train-like riffs plus Charles Mingus’ particular blend of gospel and blues. Other examples of bravura (over)blowing include Ho’s double-tonguing a staccatissimo baritone sax interlude from pedal point to altissimo range that is outlined clearly among brass fanfares and gruff snorts from two bass trombones plus broken beats from percussionist Royal Hartigan. The climactic key to the suite is the constantly expanding No Vietnamese Ever Called Me a Nigger, where Hartigan’s stylized gongs and hammered cross tones suggest the sounds of the Vietnam War that Ali avoided, costing him his championship status. Throughout the more-than-16-minute narrative, sonic interpolations, encompassing split-second theme inferences, bluesy harmonies from the six-piece sax section, twanging guitar riffs, discordant trumpet blasts, pedal-point bass trombone snorts and a final, unexpected, smoothing coda describe the discordance of the era and its final resolution. This resolution, personified by abrasive guitar solos and split-tone reed explosions, leads to Worthy of Praises Most High, a concluding theme that acknowledges Ali’s undiminished skill. Triumphantly fortissimo and atonal, the finale highlights guitarist Amanda Monaco’s rock-like chording arching over sequences of juddering pitch dislocation from brass triplets until decisive orchestral calmness prevails.

04_Shibolet_MarriageIn contrast to the other CDs’ inspirations, Ariel Shibolet’s Scenes from an Ideal Marriage (Kadima Collective KCR 28 expresses in music his interpretation of Cy Twombly’s acrylic and pencil painting of the same name. Part of a trilogy of CDs by the tenor saxophonist dedicated to the recently deceased visual artist, Scenes also features violist Nori Jacoby. Despite obvious differences, like partners in an ideal marriage, the timbres from Shibolet’s soprano saxophone and Jacoby’s viola are sometimes indistinguishable, especially when involved in intertwined dialogue. At times polyphonic, polytonal or polyharmonic, the instruments’ textures mix without blending or losing individual identities. Masterful in his use of multiphonics, the reedist lip burbles, pushes unaccented air through his horn’s body tube, hums through his mouthpiece while sounding a tone, and squawks wet glissandi. Meantime the fiddler’s strategy involves sul ponticello scrapes, flying spiccato scrubs and jagged, angled vibrations. By the time the climactic second theme variant is heard, Shibolet’s pinched ney-like whistles and Jacoby’s sul tasto strokes surmount abrasive atonalism. The defining intermezzo is unexpectedly lyrical in contrast to the exposition, but doesn’t neglect pressure for prettiness. When each player’s timbres become as thin as pencil strokes, the subsequent split tones (from the saxist) and angled strokes (from the violist) stretch the sound without breaking it and eventually combine for wide-bore smears which advance then conclude the recitation.

Sonic inspiration can come from anywhere. It’s up to the canny improviser to do the best he or she can with it, as these musicians demonstrate.

01_tom_szczesniakWaltz for Bill
Tom Szczesniak
Independent SZC-27426-27 (

Waltz for Bill is veteran Toronto session player and arranger, Tom Szczesniak’s, love letter to the genius of Bill Evans. It is also the title of his very first CD under his own name after 40 years in the industry playing with everyone from Anne Murray to Thad Jones. Evans isn’t the only piano player to be honoured by Szczesniak, as the late and much-missed Doug Riley (Dr. Music) is remembered here both with a tribute song and a cover of one of his compositions, Dinosaurus. The progressive rock/bop fusion number is a bit of an incongruity, but a palate-cleanser amidst all the ear butterscotch that comes before and after. The disc is steeped in standards and even veers into chestnut territory a time or two, but is a class act from beginning to end. Starting with a mellow but harmonically fresh approach to What Is This Thing Called Love, we get taken on a lush, lovely journey of the likes of Gershwin and Hammerstein with lots of strings, a bit of sax (Michael Stuart and Vern Dorge) and the occasional velvety vocal from Doug Mallory and Cal Dodd.

02_sounds_and_silenceSounds and Silence - Travels with Manfred Eicher
A film by Peter Guyer and Norbert Wiedmer
ECM 5050 DVD 276 9886

Since I first heard Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert in the 70s, I have been listening to ECM records. My musical tastes have been influenced over the years by the artists the label represents. Although the recording artists’ names would always vary, the producer’s credit seemed to be a constant: Manfred Eicher.

This film offers an intimate view of the recording process both in studios, and in various reverberant spaces around the world. The filmmakers follow Eicher as he travels to produce his discriminately selected artists from Scandinavia to South America. He is shown in most recording sessions as a man deep in listening, rarely communicating verbally with the musicians. It’s as though his presence alone offers reassurance and companionship in the creative process.

Eicher imparts very few words throughout the film, which leaves the viewer feeling equally unfamiliar with him upon completion. Nonetheless, Sounds and Silence is quite beautiful to watch as we travel through the different coloured locales and listen to the respective musical sounds.

In his humble presence, it seems apparent that Eicher is very devoted to his craft. Composer Eleni Karaindrou says of Eicher, “Wherever Manfred works, he is 100 percent involved. That is the true nature of his passion. He devotes himself to the moment and is entirely committed to the artist he is recording.”

01_bedardJazz in Quebec is a vigorous element of French-Canadian culture, though all too infrequently experienced in these parts. However, Montreal label Effendi has recently released a bumper crop of albums by provincial stalwarts that underscore the lively musical health of its practitioners. One features veteran bassist Alain Bédard, who skilfully demonstrates his roles as leader, anchor, frequent soloist and rhythmic engine of his Auguste Quintet on Alain Bédard – Homos Pugnax (Effendi FND 115 He wrote five of the ten tracks that include four by bandsmen and Carla Bley’s Fleurs Carnivores, which he’s arranged impressively. Supported by the nimble, versatile sax of Frank Lozano (mainly soprano), pianist Alexandre Grogg and subtle drummer Michel Lambert, Bédard has created an enticing album full of interest, unusual time signatures and sparkling work by all.

02_fieldIt’s odd to come across a fully-fledged band that’s only been around a short while yet clearly displays confidence and chemistry. Mike Field – Ashes (MFJCD 1101 is a pleasing quintet outing led by trumpeter Field, a veteran of musical forms other than jazz, performing with tenor saxist Paul Metcalfe, pianist Matt Newton, bassist Carlie Howell and drummer Dave Chan. The boss wrote all nine pieces here, some with unconventional structures and all executed with considerable panache, though the music’s more unblemished than exhilarating. Field plays with authority, with obvious tonal smarts and ear-catching virtuosity. His album strongly suggests future success.

03_rombergIndefatigable drummer Barry Romberg has put out 11 CDs over the past decade featuring his Random Access combos and the newest maintains the group rep for sustained excitement and relentless drive. Recorded live at the Rex, Barry Romberg’s Random Access – Unplugged Live (Romhog Records 121 has the usual suspects in play for 70 minutes encompassing just four tunes – guitarist Geoff Young, keyboardist Robi Botos and power electric bassist Rich Brown. Guesting is American tenor saxist Donny McCaslin, who’s more than comfortable with the striking free improv that is RA’s trademark, his staccato phrasing meshing well with Young’s distinctively spiky approach, Brown’s gouging grooves and the fierce energy from keys and drums. The more-than-22 minutes of the burning In Pursuit is a stirring highlight, Botos sparkling on electric piano.

04_keith_priceThe guitar toted by Winnipeg’s Keith Price makes untypical, attractive sounds, quickly manifested on his sophomore album The Keith Price Trio/Quintet – Gaia/Goya (KP201102 Bell-like chords, shining echoey notes, shimmering resonances are heard, which gives this disc surprising heft considering that it occupies only a measly 41 minutes as it combines four indie-pop tunes performed by his trio with bass Julian Bradford and drummer Curtis Nowosad and a six-part suite which adds alto saxist Neil Watson and pianist William Bonness. The groupings are well integrated, no one stepping out of line, though the pulse team is allotted occasional flights of fancy. The suite’s components come across as more fully realized, with a freshness of expression and frequent servings of heat.

05_butlerMontreal pianist Taurey Butler has plenty to offer on his impressive debut recording as leader, the self-titled Taurey Butler (Justin Time JUST242-2, 11 cuts where he unabashedly illuminates his respect for late genius Oscar Peterson without consciously emulating him. The ferocious swing, eloquent skill at speed, pounding left hand and showy imagination are all there, however, markedly on opening burners Sunrise, Sunset and The Lady Is A Tramp. Butler gets exemplary support from bassist Eric Lagacé and drummer Wali Muhammad throughout, though the trio’s work on ballads is less satisfying than the verve they show on tunes mid-tempo and up, like the catchy Butler contributions An Afternoon Downtown and Grandpa Ted’s Tune, the latter a surging procession of ideas. And you can’t say OP doesn’t spring to mind on Butler’s tearaway Nobody’s Here.

06_mississaugaBig bands don’t rule the jazz roost nowadays but they’re often worth a listen, as is the case with Mississauga Big Band Jazz Ensemble – On The Periphery (MBBJE 5-2, which offers 14 tunes and 73 minutes of classy, sprightly entertainment recorded live at Arnold’s Sports Bar in Oakville. The opening Steamsville is brisk and bright with gritty alto by Gary Martin, who also shines on Aluminum Baby. Section work is mostly splendid though soloists vary widely in ability (10 players get solo opportunities). The ensemble sounds best on relaxed material, especially well-worn standards, but it can swing hard and clearly enjoys challenging choices, including pieces from Burt Bacharach, the Average White Band and Charlie Mingus. Vocalist Catherine McGregor holds her own on four songs.

07a_cinque07b_weedsThree worth seeking: If you’re in the mood for tight fusion try Cinque - Catch A Corner (Alma ACD83012, a quintet featuring Robi Botos, John Johnson and Joey DeFrancesco. For forceful swing there’s Cory Weeds – Just Like That (Cellar Live CL031311, a quartet helmed by Vancouver alto saxist Weeds with pianist Tilden Webb’s trio. If you want groove and funk hear Jason Raso – The Red Arrow (Summit Records DCD 569, which showcases the Guelph-based bassist in action with assorted colleagues including B3 master Tony Monaco and drummer Ted Warren.07c_jason_raso

01_williamsonruppAlmost from the time the professional music business was established in this country, the expected route for success has been for artists to head off to the larger market down south and set up shop there. Canadians from Percy Faith and Maynard Ferguson to Joni Mitchell and Teresa Stratas effectively followed that formula. But today, as American musical hegemony lessens and modern communications almost literally shrink the world, musicians, especially those who play improvised music, can demonstrate that a permanent home in Europe is as beneficial as becoming an American resident. Take Vancouver-born Joe Williamson for instance. On Weird Weapons 2 (Creative Sources CS197 CD, the bassist, who now lives in Stockholm after stints in London, Berlin and Montreal, is matched with German guitarist Olaf Rupp and drummer Tony Buck, an Australian turned Berliner, for two extended selections of intuitive improv. No lounge guitar trio, this band creates sonic sparks that almost visibly fly every which way. Rupp’s constant, intense strumming often elasticizes into slurred fingering as Buck buzzes drumstick on cymbals, pops his toms, door-knocks his snares and rattles and reverberates any number of bells, chains and wood blocks for additional textures. Keeping the improvisations grounded is Williamson, who splays, stretches or saws upon his instrument’s strings, scroll and body wood when he’s not creating added continuum by slapping out pedal point resonation. On the nearly 30-minute Buckram, the three reach such a level of polyphonic coherence that the cumulative textures seem to ooze into every sonic space. Moving to the forefront then fading back into the ensemble, Rupp pinpoints jagged licks that eventually accelerate to stentorian multi-string runs, as Buck concentrates pitter-pattering and agitatedly clanking into tremolo whacks. Finally, a climax is reached, as Williamson’s multi-string variations, consisting of col legno strokes vibrating with a near-electronic pulse, push the three to a decisive conclusion.

02_hopscotchLess than 300 kilometres southwest, in Copenhagen, lives drummer Kevin Brow, an Orangeville native and part of the trio on Hopscotch (ILK 179 CD, completed by Italian-born tenor saxophonist Francesco Bigoni, another Copenhagen resident, plus local guitarist Mark Solborg. Paced and cooperative, Brow’s rhythmic sensibility here is like Williamson’s on the other CD. Brow’s backbeat alternately advances or bonds the others’ extended techniques during ten notable improvisations. With Solberg’s solos including distorted power chords with rock music antecedents plus organ-like echoes, and Bigoni’s bitten-off reed strategies accelerating to intense, repetitive phraseology, the drummer’s playing creates thematic definition. Case in point is Almost. Before Brow’s hard thwacks define a conclusive tipping point where unison harmonies from the guitarist and saxist advance to similar legato patterning, the variegated strategy from each differs markedly. Solberg’s licks are trebly and echoing, while Bigoni’s behind-the-beat tones split and squeak. The percussionist can also express himself more forcefully as he does with carefully positioned press rolls and flanges on Brainwashing. Meantime the saxophonist appears to be exploring the limits of his instrument with intense vibrato, lip bubbling sprays and pressurized staccato tones, as serpentine guitar strokes harden into splayed fingering plus crunching, echoing twangs, leavened by a bit of amp buzz. Bigoni’s tone alternates among magisterial reed quivers, speech-like inflection and legato lines, which helps define the remaining tracks’ scope(s).

03_spliceOver in the United Kingdom, the band Splice consists of two British players – trumpeter Alex Bonney and drummer Dave Smith – plus French reedist Robin Fincker who has lived in London for a dozen years, and Montreal-born Pierre Alexandre Tremblay. Tremblay, who plays bass guitar and electronics, has taught at England’s University of Huddersfield since 2005 and oversees its electronic music studio. Perhaps that’s why this disc is entitled Lab (Loop Records 1013 It certainly has a more extensive electronic palate than the others. Although slippery and shuddering bass guitar runs are heard infrequently throughout, Tremblay’s electronics maintain the sometimes opaque methodical pulsations which pervade the disc. A track such as The Wanderer is smooth and bouncy, built on Fincker’s chromatic clarinet runs, Bonney’s trumpet obbligatos, a shuffle drum beat and electroacoustic colouring that could be Arabic music played on an accordion. The blurry wave forms which elsewhere quiver alongside, process or complement instrumental textures such as alphorn-like vibration from Fincker’s tenor saxophone, Bonney’s brassy or muted asides and drum pops and backbeat, are more upfront on Luna Verde. Stacked horn lines, sliding bass guitar licks and percussion rebounds are accompanied by processed textures that come in-and-out of aural focus. This crackling interface concretely outlines the theme statement from the harmonized horns.

04_tony_malabyNot surprisingly of course, the stateside lure still exists and is beneficial for some musicians. Vancouver-born, Toronto-educated pianist Kris Davis, has, after a decade in New York, become one of the go-to musicians there. While the Canadians on the other CDs may provide the backdrop for improvisations, Davis not only plays on Novela (Clean Feed CF 232 CD, by Tony Malaby’s nine-piece band, but wrote all the arrangements and conducts. A career retrospective for Malaby, Davis recasts six of his original compositions to show off his tenor and soprano saxophone prowess. The extended Remolino, for example, is given a Mexicali flavour by intertwined horn lines broadened with Dan Peck’s harsh tuba snorts and drummer John Hollenbeck’s press rolls. Dramatic chording from the pianist introduces a Malaby soprano saxophone solo which reaches an elevated level of pressurized multiphonics before downshifting to moderato timbres in unison with the other horns. Before a climax of piano key plinks and a brass fanfare, the saxophonist winds his way among clanks and scrapes from the percussionist and trombonist Ben Gerstein’s brays as close harmonies are produced by alto saxophonist Michael Attias, baritone saxophonist Andrew Hadro and Joachim Badenhorst’s bass clarinet. Carefully shaping arrangements to expose distinct sound tinctures like xylophone rhythms or plunger trombone friction, Davis makes Floral and Herbaceous another highpoint. Following trumpeter Ralph Alessi’s lead and ending with a crescendo of staccato noises, the tune plays out as a duel between Malaby’s distinctive soprano reed bites and a sequence of more muted tones from the baritone saxophonist.

Whether it’s as co-leader, arranger, teacher or improviser, each of these Canadians appears to have found the proper foreign context for his or her musical development.

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