09 Tricia EdwardsIntaglios
Tricia Edwards
Independent TE1117 (triciaedwards.ca)

What happens when you fuse a solid classical music background with a newfound love of jazz and Cuban music? Tricia Edwards’ Intaglios, that’s what! With a master’s degree in piano performance, studies at the Banff Centre and Salzburg’s Mozarteum, and several years performing chamber music while living in the Middle East in the 90s, the Calgary-based pianist launched her “second musical act” in the mid-2000s, having discovered the joy of jazz. Ultimately she found her way to some of the finest musicians heating up Calgary’s Latin music scene, three of whom appear on the album.

What makes this CD especially delightful is that while Edwards beautifully explores her affection for Latin music in seven original and terrific tracks, along with three covers, she clearly hasn’t forgotten her first love. I counted at least six neat little nods to the classical repertoire. On track seven alone, the fabulous and driving String Theory, which Edwards says was inspired by watching her cats at play, there are playful passages from Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor and Mozart’s Turkish Rondo; and I’m pretty sure there are some bars of Bach, too.

Track one, Trainwreck lll, owes its inspiration, in part, to the percussive energy of Ginastera, and the final track, the gorgeous, ballad-like Alegria, offers some lovely and lilting piano work, including a few notes from Debussy’s Clair de lune.

With Intaglios, Edwards honours the genres of classical, jazz and Latin music, imprinting upon them her unique style and a lifetime of experiences.

10 Aaron ShraggeThis World of Dew
Aaron Shragge; Ben Monder
Human Resource (humanresourcerecords.com)

Released in July 2018 on Human Resource Records, This World of Dew is the third duo recording from trumpeter Aaron Shragge and guitarist Ben Monder, following 2010’s The Key Is In The Window and 2012’s Arabesque. While Monder will likely be the more familiar name to jazz listeners, Shragge is a busy member of the improvised/creative music scene in New York, with notable recent performances at the Montreal Jazz Festival, L’Off Jazz Festival and the Festival of New Trumpet Music. A big part of Shragge’s sound on This World of Dew is, in fact, a new trumpet: the Dragon Mouth Trumpet features a slide in addition to valves, allowing the player access to new expressive avenues.

Whether he is playing the Dragon Mouth Trumpet, flugelhorn, or shakuhachi, melody is at the forefront of Shragge’s contributions to This World of Dew, from the beautiful opener, Companion, through the album’s titular suite and beyond. The recording is texturally captivating from beat one; even during moments of intensity, Shragge’s tone tends to be warm and breathy, which contrasts effectively with Monder’s electric guitar tone, which, even at its gentlest, maintains an articulate edge.

Beyond the suite, highlights include spare, linear improvisation on Roll The Dice, ethereal, organ-like sounds on It’s Ours, and the unsettling urgency of Blue Bird. Do not let the contemplative mood of This World of Dew fool you: Shragge and Monder have created captivating, intricate music that rewards the active listener with unexpected delights.

Listen to 'This World of Dew' Now in the Listening Room

11 Brulez les meublesBrûlez les meubles
Louis Beaudoin-de-la-Sablonnière; Éric Normand; Louis-Vincent Hamel
Tour de bras/Circum-disc (circum-disc.com)

Guitarist Louis Beaudoin-de-la-Sablonnière has recorded with the jazz-rock band Gisèle, while drummer Louis-Vincent Hamel has distinguished himself in mainstream-modern jazz idioms. Electric bassist Éric Normand comes from further left in the spectrum, best known as leader of a free improvisation large ensemble, called GGRIL. Here the trio seeks a fresh approach to the jazz trio, under the comically radical rubric, Brûlez les meubles (Burn the furniture).

That’s just what they do, stripping their music down to its essential elements, rooting it in spare melodies, clear relationships of parts and close communication. The opening L’affaire digitale, composed by Normand, has a melody as etched as something played by Paul Bley, suggesting a Quebecois stylistic parallel, while Beaudoin-de-la-Sablonnière’s Le bonheur reduces the melodic shape of Mongo Santamaria’s already spare Afro-Blue. It’s a gentle war on the rhetoric of much modern jazz, avoiding any approach focused on a tired harmonic language of convenience.

When the trio stretches out, it’s usually in a collective improvisation, like Éminence, which begins in a rubato reflection by Beaudoin-de-la-Sablonnière then gradually picks up tempo and form in a developed dialogue that smoothly reshapes itself in a series of tempo and mood changes, including a particularly subtle bass solo at its conclusion.

By the CD’s end, the trio has established a broad expressive range and a remarkably compatible formal language built on elastic forms and detailed rhythmic interaction. It’s a particularly interesting patch in the national jazz quilt.

12 VICTO cd 131In Transverse Time
Rova Saxophone Quartet
VICTO cd 131 (victo.qc.ca)

Victo is the recording arm of the venerable FIMAV festival, the annual celebration of radical musics presented in Victoriaville, Quebec since 1984. Under Michel Levasseur, the label has produced many CDs, whether to coincide with coming attractions or document exceptional concerts. In recent years, with the market in disarray, the label has limited itself to a single CD a year. The last two were of festival events, singular performances by Musica Elettronica Viva and Anthony Braxton. This year’s sole release was a prelude to Rova’s 2018 appearance, celebrating the saxophone quartet’s 40th anniversary in 2017, reached with only one personnel change (in 1988). The group has investigated game composition with John Zorn, performed a work composed for them by Terry Riley and explored John Coltrane’s Ascension in multiple forms, including a feature film recorded at the Guelph Jazz Festival.

In Transverse Time is a more intimate event, devoted to works by the quartet’s members – Bruce Ackley on soprano, Steve Adams on alto and sopranino, Jon Raskin on baritone and Larry Ochs on tenor – and playing to some of their greatest strengths, their openness to new concepts and their incredible sounds, bridging classical concepts of the quartet with stunning individual voices, Ackley’s soaring soprano, Raskin’s harmonic-rich baritone, Adams’ lyrical alto and Ochs’ blustery, vocalic tenor, filled with the breath of free jazz. Their voices have never been better framed in more immediate conversation, or more alive than they are here. It’s another annual Victo masterpiece.

13 John ColtraneBoth Directions at Once: The Lost Album: Deluxe Edition
John Coltrane
Impulse! 80028228-02 (shop.musicvaultz.com)

For contemporary listeners saturated with collector’s editions with multiple takes of an artist’s every song, it’s hard to imagine a major label losing an album by John Coltrane, the most influential jazz musician of the last 60 years. Evidently that’s just what happened: destroyed by ABC Paramount in 1973, the unissued 1963 album exists only because of a separate mono review tape that Coltrane shared with his ex-wife, Naima. Suddenly there’s a studio session of his working quartet, complete with alternate takes, available from a period when the released Coltrane albums were Ballads and collaborations with Duke Ellington and singer Johnny Hartman.

Both Directions at Once catches Coltrane in transition, but Coltrane was in continuous, accelerated musical evolution from 1955 until his death in 1967. The material embodies his then-current interests: a hard-edged, compressed version of Impressions, a standby of extended shamanistic transformations in live performances; One Up, One Down, similarly focused; an intensely brooding Nature Boy that would bloom fully two years later; a sprightly soprano saxophone theme, Untitled Original 11383; the swinging Vilia and the 11-minute Slow Blues, both traditional and radical, literally two blues at once. It’s a considered guide to Trane’s musical thought on a day in March 1963.

The deluxe edition includes a second CD of alternate takes of most tracks and multiple takes of Impressions. If you’re considering The Lost Album, get this version. If you don’t need it now, you will.

14 Empty CastlesEmpty Castles
Spectral
Aerophonic AR-016 (aerophonicrecords.com)

Taking full advantage of the acoustics inside Vallejo, California’s Bunker A-168, are members of Spectral, a trio whose polyphonic improvisations develop additional sonic possibilities by applying the spatial qualities of this long-deserted 12,000-foot Second World War concrete munitions depository. Already committed to the extended techniques and dissonant currents of free music, the players – Burlington, ON-born, California-based trumpeter Darren Johnston, fellow Bay area resident sopranino and tenor saxophonist Larry Ochs and Chicagoan, alto and baritone saxophonist Dave Rempis – create nine sequences here in Action Painting-like dribs and drabs, with the cavernous setting further amplifying their connected and challenged timbres.

Tracks such as the concluding Gravity Corridor, where squished brass smears and the reeds’ shuddering snarls attain the apogee of discordance, and Protest Portal, a whining lullaby of mixing disconnected saxophone pressure tones and an unexpected rubato tattoo from Johnston, are almost textbook instances of cacophony. But Empty Castles offers reassuring consonance as well. Splash Zone is as close to a swing piece as this trio gets, with chromatic harmonies extended through trumpet flutters plus tongue slaps and splintered tones from the reeds, adding up to chromatic polyphony. Before that, Brooklyn Took It blends brass brays and distorted reed peeps into a mellow pointillist groove.

In reality Bunker A-168 may be an empty castle. But on this disc it’s filled with distinctive, assertive horn sounds.

15 Space BetweenThe Space Between Us
Ida Toninato; Jennifer Thiessen
Ambiances Magnétiques AM 236 CD (actuellecd.com)

With its drone-inflected microtonalism, this session by Montreal-based baritone saxophonist Ida Toninato and viola d’amore/violist Jennifer Thiessen takes its cues from new music as much as jazz improvisation. As the duo’s performance undulates through seven constricted tracks, the development mixes sonorities and silences with studied extensions of the instruments’ conventional ranges. For instance, Toninato’s fat saxophone smears move swiftly from coloratura to chalumeau registers, the better to intersect with Thiessen’s flying spiccato or multiple-stopping sequences.

Additionally, it sounds at points as if processing or overdubbing is taking place, in order to produce a murmuring ostinato and hints of bassoon-like or French horn-like textures that evolve alongside the duo’s output. These doubled reed tones are sensed most readily on Magma/Suspension, where throaty tremolo tones are strikingly contrasting with the fiddler’s swift, razor-sharp sweeps. The most telling challenge to a conventional accompanist/soloist matrix is Space [Outer] Space. Here, cosmos infinity is evoked through barely moving textures, confirmed in their otherworldliness through emphasized sul ponticello bow strokes and pressurized reed snarls and buzzes, until both motifs finally combine.

Although the CD is titled The Space Between Us, the profound musical connection established by Thiessen and Toninato confirms that this gap is minimal at best.

Listen to 'The Space Between Us' Now in the Listening Room

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