It’s been 12 years since the release of the Tania Gill Quartet’s debut Bolger Station, an invocation of Northern Ontario, and that’s far too long between recordings for a composer, pianist and bandleader with Gill’s special talents. Each of her compositions here is a fresh expedition, a different possibility in both style and mood. The latest edition of the quartet retains trumpeter Lina Allemano, an ideal foil as the co-lead voice, with support coming from newcomers to the group, bassist Rob Clutton and drummer Nico Dann, each adding illuminating nuance and animation.
Gill’s compositions have a rare breadth, from the formal clarity of her unaccompanied theme statement on the opening Marsh Music to the chromatic tangle of lines that she and Allemano create on Climate Striker. Some of the pieces are built of contrasting segments, sometimes adding new thematic content between improvised variations, creating particularly complex patterns of development on the later pieces in the program, like Apology, marked by Clutton’s arco solo which approaches a cello-like timbre. Up-tempo pieces, like Jaunty (featuring Gill on a vintage Realistic MG-1 synthesizer that she deploys here with a marked subtlety) and Knocked Over, can take on a wild playfulness, multiplying the complexity.
Along with eight of Gil’s compositions, the group also performs People Gonna Rise Like the Water, imbuing the climate activist anthem with a hymn-like nobility.