François Carrier Quartet

Ayler Records aylDL-027

Extending and expanding in-the-moment improvisations over more than 67 minutes, François Carrier’s quartet creates five memorable tracks while negating the old cliché about Montreal-Toronto rivalry.

Although three of the four musicians are Montrealers – drummers John Heward and Michel Lambert plus alto and soprano saxophonist Carrier – the fourth is Hogtown guitarist Reg Schwager. More surprising is the plectrumist’s inclusion, in that he usually works the mainstream side of the street.

Here however, especially on the more-than-20½-minute “Noh Three”, Schwager’s knob-twisting distortions, heavy down strokes and serpentine note placement perfectly match the expositions of the other three, who singly or in tandem have experience with such outside players as saxophonist Steve Lacy and pianist Paul Bley. When, for instance, Schwager’s slurred picking stretches his strings every which way, Carrier responds with supple, heavily vibrated counter tones and tongue-fluttering. For their part, the percussionists limit themselves to full-bore thumping accented with bell-rattling.

Moving from thin-toned soprano sax trills to full-bodied alto split tones and reed slurs, Carrier’s inventive timbres often invoke Carnatic as much as Cool jazz styling. His sprightly legato lines sometimes call forth dual backbeats from the drummers, while squeaky reed interludes demand hearty electronic reverb from the guitarist.

Noh is also quintessentially Canadian in that this Montreal-recorded session can only be purchased by downloading it from a Swedish label’s Web site (URL: Classily, the buyer can also download full-color art and complete notes along with the music.

— Ken Waxman

For Whole Note Vol. 12 #9