Oh Canada: Fran
François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Jean-Jacques Avenel
Gordon Grdina Trio
It's forever surprising that, while Americans revere the pioneers of European free instrumentation, the work of musicians just to the north seems often to go unnoticed. But pockets of innovation exist and are well-documented in Montreal, Vancouver and elsewhere across our neighboring nation.
In concept-happy Montreal, the trio of saxophonist François Carrier, drummer Michel Lambert and bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel is something of a happy anomaly. Carrier and Lambert have played together in groups led by an impressive list of non-Canadians, including Uri Caine, Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, Mat Maneri, Tomasz Stanko and Dewey Redman. But on the 2007 Canadian festival circuit, they rounded into a trio with fellow Francophone Avenel. Avenel himself has an impressive CV, having replaced Kent Carter in Steve Lacy's quintet in the '80s as well as working with Noah Howard, Frank Wright, Mal Waldron and others. Within captures their set at the Calgary Jazz Festival and shows a trio well at ease but willing to explore. There's something low-key about the set, especially in Carrier's mellow tone, but they manage to preserve an adventurous spirit.
Vancouver string player Gordon Grdina has a similar manner of subdued journeying. He's a talented musician with enough diversity and dexterity that on ...If Accident Will, his trio with bassist Tommy Babin and drummer Kenton Loewen often sounds like a quartet at least. On electric guitar he can manage the particular hollow-razor sound of James "Blood" Ulmer, but his quick and dexterous wanderings are closer to Nels Cline. Babin (with whom Grdina also plays in a trio with Vancouver clarinetist François Houle, one of the most talented voices in Canadian improvisation) moves gracefully into the upper register, putting the strings on an even parespecially when Grdina plays oud, where he seems more natural.
The most exciting of this Canadian sampling is the Now Orchestra's Animal Tales. Founded in 1987 by saxophonist Coat Cooke, the big band is arguably Canada's premier new music commissioning ensemble. Here they reach cross-continent to work with some core members of Montreal's Ambiances Magnetiques collective (Jean Derome, Diane Labrosse, Pierre Tanguay) as well as Ontario experimenter John Oswald and Chicago flute star Nicole Mitchell for pieces recorded at three concerts over as many years. It's great to hear the composers' ideas projected across a large ensemble on this wonderfully broad CD, as expansive as the country from which it hails.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Moment; Core; Experience.
Personnel: François Carrier: alto and soprano saxophone; Michel Lambert: drums; Jean-Jacque Avenel: acoustic bass, sanza.
...If Accident Will
Tracks: The Monk; 229; Different Places; Cobble Hill/Renunciation; Peripheral Ghosts; W.W.T.D; Morning Moon; Title Wave; Yellow Spot Into the Sun.
Personnel: Gordon Grdina: guitar, oud; Tommy Babin: bass; Kenton Loewen: drums.
Tracks: Animal Tales; Thorsburger_The Skinny; D'Une Mare A L'Autre; Slap and Tickle; Trio Improvisation; The Great Blue Orb...; Thorsburger_The Works.