Bassist John Geggie is based in Ottawa but has achieved much in jazz and other art forms nationwide. Two new additions to his huge discography are of gripping interest.
His Geggie Trio + Donny McCaslin - Across The Sky (Plunge Records PR00632 www.plungerecords.com) particularly emphasizes his compositional skills, seven of the 14 tracks here his, the rest collaborative contributions from the foursome with pianist Nancy Walker, drummer Nick Fraser and saxman McCaslin. The album is zesty, tunefully inventive, stacked with shifting time signatures and superior, finessed work on the bass. This is top-grade contemporary jazz, McCaslin often straying outside the mainstream with dramatically engaging work that has a meaty individuality to match the forceful leader and Walker’s ability to make surprise connections and balance lyricism with toe-tapping passion. Quick-witted and poised, the group creates playful experimental music though it’s anchored by restless, absorbing imaginations.
With Geggie Project (Ambiances Magnetiques AM 179 CD www.actuelle.com), Geggie is in more avant-jazz heavyweight mode, with spacey Marilyn Crispell on piano and Nick Fraser drumming. Again there are 14 tracks, seven spontaneous appetizers by the trio and seven entrees from the leader - you get the idea with Geggie’s pliant and expressive if sober opening Credo with bass predominant, haunting colours and suggestions of anguished subtext and then the trio’s mercurial Ice And Meltwater. The album teems with incredible invention. Run-Away Sheep shows off superb bass craft and hints at Fraser’s pyrotechnic tendencies before gate-crashing Crispell-fuelled chords arrive. The threesome covers a wide swath of stylistic territory with lofty flights of notes yet remains very accessible compared to free skronk mayhem. The music’s impish and erudite, keeping the peace between energy and atmosphere, sometimes luxuriant, sometimes wallowing in dark sonorities and overall more melodic than impassioned. Especially attractive are the trio’s Weather Forecast and the leader’s Canon.
A third recording led by a bassist is also a great buy. The CD/DVD package is the Alex Bellegarde Quintet’s Live (Chien Noir 09-999 www.alexbellegarde.com) with the boss in virtuoso form at a Montreal Maison de la culture Mercier concert. He wrote the 10 cuts, including some with a global jazz viewpoint and an elastic pulse that’s underlined with the presence of Kiko Osorio on congas. Bellegarde’s other comrades - pianist Yoel Diaz, alto saxist Erik Hove and drummer Yvon Plouffe – are almost his match in versatility, with many tunes featuring unison leads, lucid soloing and passages that vary from church calm to bucolic celebration. This band plays with impetus and conviction, aided by miraculously layered textures and a sensitive range of inflections, with Bellegarde’s bass a brilliantly crucial inner voice.
Montreal is the base, too, for another rising star whose bold new quartet CD should fly off record shelves. On tenor saxist Chet Doxas’ Big Sky (Justin Time JTR 8558-2 8558-2 www.justin-time.com) he has the support of a close-knit, sympathetic team - Ben Charest (guitar), Zack Lorber (bass) and brother Jim on drums. The leader penned six of the eight lengthy tunes and from the opening For Jim games swiftly begin with time, harmony and undulating narrative themes, which leader Doxas attacks with confident tones and a breadth of ideas in the manner of Chris Potter, with Charest effectively counterpointing all the way. There’s delicate treatment for L’Acadie, off-meter challenges and twisting lines outside the melody on Sideshow and a melancholic farewell to Jimmy Giuffre with Goodbye, all of interest, and outstanding work on the title piece, a homage to guitarist Bill Frisell.
Montreal supplies half the Gale/Rodrigues Group in B3 organist Vanessa Rodrigues and guitarist Mike Rud for the quartet’s debut release Live At The Rex (Indie CGVR01 www.vanessarodriguez.com), a potent package that also features Torontonians in saxophonist Chris Gale, and drummer Davide DiRenzo. Here’s a bustling session that exploits the famed tenor-organ combos of yesteryear with great aplomb with a pleasing mix of standards and hard-hitting originals. Players take long, often bruising solos, notably the versatile Gale on the opening Wes Montgomery’s Full House with Rud in fine comping form as well as constructing clean lines. The big-hearted ballad Statement gets a searching reflection from its composer Gale while throughout the more-grounded Rodrigues ratchets up tension when needed to the level of bristling exchanges. The co-leaders have fun on the happy honker One-Eyed Monster while elsewhere the room’s full of quick turns of phrase, fierce careening solos and runaway grooves, with timely relief on calmer pieces such as Bye Bye Blackbird.
The Django Reinhardt tribute band Croque Monsieur has won the Canadian Collectors Congress annual album–of-the-year award given out at the organization of vintage jazz lovers’ 39th gathering in Toronto. The winner beat out four other finalists - the Happy Pals, Ron Joseph and friends, Dinny and the All-Stars and Braithwaite & Whiteley.