Sometimes Y
Lina Allemano Four
Lumo Records 2017-7

Squish It!
Lina Allemano’s Titanium Riot
Lumo Records 2017-8 (

04a LinaAllemanoFour SometimesYTrumpeter Lina Allemano has been playing in Toronto for two decades, becoming a central figure among the city’s more creative musicians and developing enduring musical associations that tip over into a variety of bands. In recent years, Allemano has been splitting her time between Toronto and Berlin, where her musical life includes work with improvising ensembles from duos to the Berlin Improvisers Orchestra as well as studies with Axel Dörner, whose exploration of extended techniques has given the trumpet new life. On the home front, Allemano is releasing work by her two ongoing Toronto bands, each CD testifying to the virtues of longstanding partnerships combined with questing musical minds.

The Lina Allemano Four first recorded in 2003 and the current lineup has been in place since 2006, with alto saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser. The group has apparent roots in classic free jazz ensembles like the Ornette Coleman Quartet, with similar emphasis on the leader’s compositions and an almost stark principle of dialogue consistently informing the music. There’s a frequent emphasis on speech patterns in Allemano’s compositions, sometimes consisting of short, emphatic truncated phrases, and their realizations here are just as conversational, with West consistently adding supportive counterlines to Allemano’s solos and the trumpeter returning the favour. Kanada, a high point, ends with an extended group dialogue that grows naturally from Downing’s arco lead.

04b TRiot SquishItAllemano first assembled Titanium Riot in 2013 and released the group’s debut Kiss the Brain a year later. Including Ryan Driver on analogue synthesizer, Rob Clutton on electric bass and Nick Fraser on drums, the group, devoted to free collective improvisation, undoubtedly benefits from the years working together in different contexts. The 2017 recording Squish It! is a dramatic continuation of the process. In this context, Allemano combines a distilled and pointed lyricism with striking timbral explorations to provide the music with an essential focus. It’s evident in the opening moments of the title track as she concentrates on long tones and a sound that’s a striking combination of subtle muting and the light buzz of air through the horn, the effect suggesting more than one trumpet. The quartet’s close listening and attention to texture consistently create an almost orchestral feel. Allemano’s focused concentration on sonority dovetails with Clutton’s rich sustained bass tones and mobile lines, Fraser’s shifting, energizing patterns and Driver’s creative mix of environmental, vintage cartoon and sci-fi sounds. The results range from the playful to the genuinely mysterious.

While the methodologies of Allemano’s two quartets differ, the groups share a collective passion for creative interaction as well as admirable results.

06 Collective OrderVolume Two
Collective Order
Independent (

What separates Volume Two from the 2016 album Volume One by Collective Order is the fact that on this second edition the music comprises original charts written by members of the ensemble, a “community,” as it is referred to in the notes to this package. While it is impossible to imagine a group without at least a musical director, Collective Order prefers to keep that function anonymous in its determination to maintain the communal spirit of these large-ensemble works, no doubt. So far this strategy appears to be working to the group’s advantage, as these 12 charts prove yet again and with good reason.

Incredibly the work of composition too is well-spread, including contributions from Andrew McAnsh, Liam Stanley, Ethan Tilbury, Ewen Farncombe, Jocelyn Barth, Connor Newton, Chris Adriaanse, Laura Swankey, Jon Foster, Connor Walsh, Belinda Corpuz, Andrew Miller and Joel Visentin. This represents a total of 13 members from the 19-member ensemble; something unusually democratic in any configuration of a music group. Even more remarkable is the fact that despite coming from so many different pens, there appears to be a wonderful uniformity of sound suggesting a kind of rare musical intimacy between the members of the band.

Whether evocative of rarefied realms, such as in Laniakea, or for a deep attachment to terra firma, as in Outside My Window, each chart takes us into some wild or wonderful place with trusted and inspiring musical friends.

07 Brad CheesemanThe Tide Turns
Brad Cheeseman
Independent BCM1701 (

This exploratory borehole into the atmospheric stratum of contemporary music is only the second in the career of bassist Brad Cheeseman. Unlike other early recordings made by musicians of his generation, The Tide Turns redeems itself from self-indulgence by being original (all but one of the compositions is by Cheeseman) and moreover, each is accessible enough to not require any decoding on the part of the listener. Secondly, this is a musical snapshot captured in the process of – as the bassist puts it – “change, self-discovery and reinvention.” To those aspects of the music’s source one might also add a blending of idioms in music that also retains much emotional intensity and originality.

On this disc Cheeseman shows that a musician can set out to find his own voice; and coming ever closer to doing so, might still retain the early echoes of his idols and those who influenced his playing. Happily the accolade of winning the 2016 Montreal Jazz Festival’s Grand Prix de Jazz has not made Cheeseman either wool-headed or a musical stuffed shirt. This is immediately recognisable in the music, which is all born of a questing quality combined with a rhythmically rock-solid yet splendidly discursive style designed to create music that seems to be contemplative rather than chatty. Despite moments which are unnecessarily garrulous and interrupted by frequent solos, this is energetic music exemplified in the swinging of Falling Forward.

08 Tom RaineyFloat Upstream
Tom Rainey Obbligato
Intakt Records CD292 (

There’s a special relationship between jazz and the Great American Songbook, that collection of old popular songs, Broadway show tunes and movie themes largely assembled from the 1920s to the 1950s. Whether approached casually, romantically, harmonically or ironically, that songbook links performers from Louis Armstrong to Anthony Braxton and almost everyone in between. Drummer Tom Rainey has explored it in depth in association with pianists Fred Hersch and Kenny Werner; with his band Obbligato, he has found a distinctive path, combining standards with collective improvisation.

Obbligato includes frequent Rainey collaborators, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and the émigré Canadian pianist Kris Davis, along with the similarly distinguished trumpeter Ralph Alessi and bassist Drew Gress. They establish an identity immediately, the collectivist Stella by Starlight extending the theme’s moody haze with the horns’ exchanges until Davis initiates a bright, fluid approach, animating the piece along with sparkling eruptions from Gress and Rainey as well.

The advanced harmonic language suggests composer George Russell at times, but Laubrock and Alessi also thrive on the original melodies, developing pointillist moments on Sam Rivers’ Beatrice and a pensive luminosity on I Fall in Love Too Easily. The counterpoint and sheer rhythmic energy of What Is This Thing Called Love? recall the invention of Sonny Rollins at his most exploratory, while the extended What’s New? takes the quintet furthest afield, a unique cross breeding of 50s cool jazz lyricism and contemporary impulses that’s at once familiar and fresh.

09 Bill EvansAnother Time – The Hilversum Concert
Bill Evans Trio
Resonance Records HCD-2031 (

In 2016, Resonance released Some Other Time, an unknown studio recording by the Bill Evans Trio from 1968, only the second recording issued by the group that included drummer Jack DeJohnette as well as Evans’ longstanding bassist Eddie Gomez. The label has now released this live radio studio broadcast from the Netherlands, recorded just two days later. The recording quality is every bit as good and the presence of an audience adds to the performance’s vitality.

Evans was a master of ballad reveries that extended the harmonic language of jazz with a Scriabin-like passion for modes and chromaticism. On his greatest recordings, however, he thrived on the most aggressively creative supporting musicians that jazz ever had to offer, the bassist Scott LaFaro and the drummer Philly Joe Jones, who never appeared together in Evans’ recorded legacy. This trio with the relentlessly busy Gomez and DeJohnette, a highly inventive drummer between appointments with Charles Lloyd’s quartet and Miles Davis’ band, is as close as we’re liable to hear.

The complex dynamic exchange adds to You’re Gonna Hear from Me, Evans’ dense chords subtly ambiguating the song’s determined self-confidence, and it only develops from there, whether it’s illuminating the contemporary Who Can I Turn To? or animating the superior ballad Emily. The concert unfolds beautifully, through DeJohnette’s feature Nardis to superb renditions of Evans’ own Turn Out the Stars and a brief, explosive version of Five. It’s an essential recording for Evans enthusiasts. 

10 Vein RavelVein plays Ravel
Vein (featuring Andy Sheppard)
Challenge Records Int. DMCHR 71179 (

Claude Debussy was at the head of the re-emergence of a complete French school in music that began as a reaction against Wagnerism. His most famous lieutenant was Maurice Ravel who, however, never completely followed Debussy’s lead into the world of extreme formal and tonal ambiguity. It was Ravel who cultivated a style that combined the Classical with the contemporary and famously – especially in Le Tombeau de Couperin – fostered a more complex hybrid that included Romani music, jazz, Spanish culture and the music of the Far East. It is with that iconic suite composed originally for solo piano that Vein begin their unusual tribute to Ravel.

On Le Tombeau de Couperin Vein employs the jazz trio format to re-imagine Ravel’s suite, adding to the subtle colours and evanescent textures of the music. In the hands of pianist Michael Arbenz, bassist Thomas Lähns and drummer Florian Arbenz, the listener is not merely dazzled by sound, but rather introduced to Ravel’s marvellous sense of melody and structure. This tribute to the dead, written during World War I, is brought back to life by Vein with unconventional and progressive harmonies. A horn section on Bolero finds saxophonist Andy Sheppard its most skilful advocate. Florian Arbenz never loses concentration either, adopting a well-judged pulse and joining the full group in moulding a wonderfully rich orchestral texture. Vein plays Ravel is classic jazz.

11 DolphyFlauto Dolphy
Dominik Strycharski
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 03/2017 (

Jazz avatar Eric Dolphy (1928-1964) was proficient playing alto saxophone, bass clarinet and especially flute in Charles Mingus’ and John Coltrane’s groups. Here, his compositions and improvisations are saluted by Dominik Strycharski. Moving confidently through the eight tracks during a live session that leaves little space for miscues, the Polish polymath serves up unaccompanied interpretations of the Dolphy canon using soprano, alto, tenor and bass recorders, as if this is the most normal musical showcase.

Such Dolphy classics as Gazzelloni (named for the classical flutist) and Hat and Beard (saluting Thelonious Monk) are sophisticatedly reconstituted. That’s because Strycharski’s technical skills allow him to build up the second piece from atom-sized bites that are both percussive and triple-tongued, to a selection of dissonant pitches. Meanwhile Gazzelloni divides into exploding multiphonics seemingly squalled from more than one recorder at once, only to descend into a delicately tonal coda. Screeching atonality that brings out the instruments’ pseudo-metallic buzz on Iron Man confirms Strycharski’s skilful appropriation of both solo and accompaniment functions. Meanwhile his own composition, the concluding Sam, sets up ecstatic airy whorls and whirls that are as vocalized as they are played, yet still manage to capture and salute the melodic as well as the militant attributes of Dolphy’s art.

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