Johnston/Frith/Hoff/Ochs/Smith

Reasons for Moving
NotTwo MW 779-2

As well as trumpet solos which range from the elegantly muted to raucous plunger work, Burlington, Ont.-native Darren Johnston seems to have contributed sly local references to this notable co-op session, recorded in his new Bay area hometown,. Some of the tune titles are “Deep North”, “Distant Cities” and “QEW” [!].

Yet this CD of 10 instant compositions impresses even more, since the trumpeter’s skills are judiciously integrated among the trills, pops and honks of Larry Ochs’ saxophones; the crunching reverb and distorted runs from Fred Frith’s guitar; plus Devin Hoff’s thick bass chords and the rumbling back beat of Ches Smith’s drums.

On tunes like “Deep North”, Johnston is an oasis of measured calm. His minimalist and unfussy playing smoothly limns the theme, as saxophone trills wiggle and guitar lines ripple. “QEW” almost replicates the abrupt and unexpected lane changes on the highway, as Ochs’ irregular sopranino squeaks alternate with Johnston’s tremolo triplets. Other tunes, such as the bubbling “Biocarbon Man” add thumping drumming and triggered guitar wah-wah pedal peals to the trumpeter’s brassy smears.

Johnston’s double-tongued, staccato timbres lockstep with spacy reverb from Frith, above back beat drums and thumping bass to decorate Ochs’ snorting rendition of the title track. The musical alchemy produced confirms the statement expressed in the title and may even explain Johnston’s relocation.

— Ken Waxman

— For Whole Note Vol. 13 #3