08 Collective 3Volume 3
Collective Order
Independent (collectiveorderjazz.com)

Collective Order is a prime example of how art always triumphs, even when politicians of every partisan hue try and exploit the term “diversity” to suit whatever agenda they seek to advance. For Toronto’s ever-evolving, improvising large ensemble, diversity is best expressed not in platitudes, but in the expression of being a joyful cultural voice: from Native-Canadian to every other immigrant artist who makes up Canada’s multicultural musical topography.

As with earlier recordings, the band’s 2018 release Vol.3 features music written by various members of its ensemble. Each time the composer decides who, or what permutation of the Collective Order, will perform the repertoire. Size composition of the group varies, and with it the feeling and musical expression of each piece is singular in nature. Quite remarkably, there is a feeling that all of this repertory belongs to one contiguous unit. This speaks to how successfully the group is able to fashion the individuality and musicianship of its members into a characterful unit.

The unifying theme on Vol.3 appears to be a reverential homage (broadly speaking) to the earth, and more specifically to Toronto, Ontario and most of all to Canada. We hear this right out of the gates in Melanie Montour’s spoken word Land Acknowledgement, continuing through Theme for Lake Ontario. The proverbial strength of the Universal Mother on I Hear You, combining language, multilingual spoken and sung lyrics is by far the disc’s crowning moment.

09 Carrier ElementsElements
François Carrier; Michel Lambert; John Edward
FMR Records FMRCD501 (francoiscarrier.com)

François Carrier is a Quebec- born alto saxophone player with a decades-long history playing free improvisation with musicians around the world (including Paul Bley, Gary Peacock and Dewey Redman). He has released over 30 albums recorded for many European labels that specialize in avant-garde music. In 2001 Carrier won a JUNO for his third album Compassion and has stated it is “important to record as much music as possible. You learn a lot just by listening to what you have done together and since everything is improvised, you will never do the same thing twice.”

Carrier and drummer Michel Lambert have played and recorded together for years and they have toured Europe, Asia and Canada. Elements, released by UK label FMR records, also includes British bassist John Edwards and has three live performances by the trio: Wilderness, recorded at the 20th Jazz Cerkno festival (Slovenia 2015), and Elements and Roar of Joy from Iklectick (London, UK, 2016).

Carrier and Lambert’s long history together ensures their musical intuition is highly attuned and their playing can change quickly from staccato and aggressive to lyrical and introspective. Edwards is an integral part of these performances and it feels as if he has played in this group for years. The first piece, Elements, begins sporadically, with Edwards playing notes off-rhythm and switching to his bow (which he uses frequently and effectively throughout the album). Carrier plays short, aggressive bursts and then Lambert enters with off-rhythm backing percussion. The piece moves through several phases trading solo parts, and around the four-minute mark Carrier introduces more lyrical lines with a sound reminiscent of Ornette Coleman. The album captures the spirit and energy of their live performances and repeated listening reveals the complexity of their shifting musical textures.

10 Flow VerticalFlow Vertical
Jasna Jovićević Sextet
FMR CD 475-0318 (jasnajovicevic.com) 

An indication of the high quality of music in Toronto is this CD of multifaceted compositions by Belgrade-native Jasna Jovićević. Jovićević lived in Toronto from 2006 to 2009, while receiving her MA in composition at York University, recording with local players and sampling different musical currents to use in her own work. However this CD, while proficient musically doesn’t settle on a consistent genre.

With an unusual lineup (violin, viola, cello, bassoon, percussion and her own saxophones, bass clarinet, spacedrum and vocals), the seven tracks bounce among animated string-oriented tremolo showcases, Balkan-tinged vocal laments, spacey voice, string and reed elaboration, plus instrumental virtuosity that zips, from near-atonal to near-smooth jazz.

Ram Run through the Veins, the CD’s lengthiest track, defines the conundrum in miniature. Beginning as an exercise in free-form saxophone squeals and whistles, backed by a sardonic march conveyed by splash cymbals, it settles down to become a quasi-ballad with triple-stropping strings and breathy English vocalizing accompanied by a bassoon obbligato. Other tracks such as Speak Loud My Inner Child show off Jovićević’s unaccompanied saxophone prowess. Still others like Rising Barefoot Ballad and Silver Winds of a Thousand Petals create close-knit harmonies which express such intense emotionalism that either could be part of the formal Romantic canon.

Flow Vertical is a top-flight demonstration of what Jovićević can do as a composer and performer. But settling on one consistent narrative would better define her ideas.

11 Houle You Have OptionsYou Have Options
François Houle; Alexander Hawkins; Harris Eisenstadt
Songlines SGL1628-2 (songlines.com)

Ken Pickering, who recently passed away from cancer, was co-founder and artistic director of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. For over three decades he created a singular and still-growing contribution to Canadian improvised music by regularly assembling ad hoc groups matching Vancouver musicians with their international counterparts. Among his achievements was this stellar assembly of Vancouver clarinetist François Houle, English pianist Alexander Hawkins and Toronto-born, US-resident, drummer Harris Eisenstadt. First matched in 2014, the three reunited during the 2016 festival and went into the recording studio. This resulting CD, an essay in chamber jazz that explores the trio’s own fresh compositions and a few from some stellar composers, is dedicated to Pickering’s memory.

The group’s lyric potential is apparent first on Hawkins’ opening Clue and Steve Lacy’s Art. There’s a rich, warm woodiness to Houle’s clarinet and it’s admirably matched with Hawkins’ liquid keyboard and Eisenstadt’s subtly propulsive drumming. Houle’s edgy Run Riot and Eisenstadt’s You Have Options. I Have a Lawyer will momentarily break the spell, but it’s the group’s reflective depths that define the CD: Houle’s gently spiralling, impassioned lines on The Pitts; the group’s insistently coiling phrases on the modal Prayer and the very light, traditional blues of Advice.    

The group’s breadth is evidenced by a free interpretation of Charles Ives’ Largo, while Andrew Hill’s Dusk, sometimes serene, sometimes gently animated, provides a fitting conclusion, from Houle’s a cappella introduction to its shimmering conclusion.

12 TSE high restse
Cyril Bondi; Pierre-Yves Martel; Christoph Schiller
Another Timbre at123 (anothertimbre.com)

Redefining period instruments, Montreal viola da gamba, harmonica and pitch pipes player Pierre-Yves Martel joins two musicians from Geneva, Cyril Bondi on Indian harmonium, objects and pitch pipes plus spinet specialist Christoph Schiller, to create five microtonal improvisations that amplify the in-the-moment concept that tse (which means “here” in a mountain dialect spoken near Geneva) only suggests.

Based around cycles of tremolo drones from the harmonium, the moody performances are narrow but nuanced, since the repetitive outpouring is periodically disrupted by concentrated string plinks or stabs. The extended rustles that make up a track like III have their delicacy challenged when swelling harmonica puffs and concentrated wave-form-like buzzes clamorously dominate the sound field, until that moment when the organ-like extensions give way to string twangs until both expositions dissolve into silence. On other tracks, the group’s minimalist sways and squirms demonstrate similar contradictions and resolutions, as when shrill whistles, peeps, tinkling bells and unexpected reed-like tones create parallel motifs to the underlying ostinato, and then combine for a satisfying flat-line conclusion.

More than background sounds, but never powerful enough to be obnoxiously upfront, the fascination in tse’s presence is how these sounds, designed with understated, overlapping restrictions, continue to hold aural interest during the evolution of each track.

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