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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 19, No. 2

Off the Record: Jazz Reviews

by Marc Chénard / October 1, 2013

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Nick Fraser: Towns and Villages
Barnyard Records BR00330
Toronto drummer Nick Fraser’s quartet just passed through town. If you missed it, this album is a good snapshot. In a little more than 50 minutes, this unit offers some bold sounds on the cutting edge of modern jazz. Its instrumentation is a tad unusual, too, with Rob Clutton and Andrew Downey in tow, both bass players by trade, the latter heard on cello alone. Guesting here is New York tenorman Tony Malaby, one of the most sought-after musicians. Biting on soprano sax and burly on tenor, he pulls no punches in this date that is harmonically adventurous with melodic twists reminiscent of Ornette Coleman or Steve Lacy. Venturesome fare indeed. www.barnyardrecords.com

Becky Noble: Salish Folk Song
Effendi FND 126
A young talent hailing from British Colombia, alto saxophonist Becky Noble appeared last June during the FIJM. Prior to that, she released this album at the helm of a sextet consisting largely of Montreal musicians. Other than the folk standard Norwegian Wood (considerably reworked), the leader offers nine nicely crafted originals. Clearly situated in the jazz mainstream, her tunes are cast at medium or slow tempo with a minimum of harmonic tension. One exception though is tenor saxophonist Chet Doxas’ wailing solo on Sun Salutation (track 4), that inexplicably fades out in mid-flight. Noble holds her own, albeit not fully asserting her presence on her horn, as seems to be the case with today’s lot of schooled players still cutting their teeth. But then again, you have to start somewhere, and this is an honest first step for her, but we still wish her to step out a little more from the beaten path. www.effendirecords.com

The Whammies Play the Music of Steve Lacy (vol. 2)
Driff Records CD1303
Passing through town on a frigid January night, the sextet The Whammies did a mini-tour   in preparation of this disc. For those in the know, its name stems from a piece from the late Steve Lacy, and accordingly this is a tribute album. All but one of the 11 tunes are by him (the exception being Monk’s obscure Shuffle Boil), all of which are tackled with a mix of respect an irreverence perfectly in keeping with this slightly off-the-wall music. Dutch drummer extraordinaire Han Bennink propels the band with jocular swing whereas his compatriot (and now Stateside resident) alto saxophonist Jorrit Dykstra assumes the dedicatee’s role while avoiding slavish imitation. The rest of the cast includes violinist Mary Oliver adding subtle counterpoint and the trio of Jeb Bishop, trombone, Pandelis Karayorgis, piano, and Nate McBride, double bass, adding meat to the bone. While Monk had to die to be finally recognized in the jazz cannon, will this also be the case for Lacy, one of his disciples? Here’s hoping that these performances will contribute to the cause. www.driffrecords.com

Translation: Rebecca Anne Clark

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