Mark Segger Sextet

The Beginning
18th Note Records 18-2011-1

Cunningly arranged and voiced so that each instrument is appropriately voiced, the compositions of drummer Mark Segger are given a first-class showcase on this exceptional CD. An Edmonton-native, now Toronto-based, the drummer’s eight tunes are multi-faceted enhancing solidly contemporary efforts with avant-garde flashes. On hand to enliven the pieces are veterans, trumpeter Jim Lewis, bassist Andrew Downing and Tania Gill on piano and melodic; plus younger soloists trombonist Heather Segger, tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Chris Willes plus the drummer.

With sounds ranging from those reminiscent of baroque rounds to those which pick up Latin-funk inferences, many announce their individuality by concentrating the rhythm in an ostinato from trombonist Segger. In other places she snorts subterraneanously or resonates alphorn-like trills, often in dual counterpoint with the trumpeter’s flutter tonguing. Joining Segger’s percussive ratamacues and flams to meticulously expose dynamic key clips and intense rubato lines on an uncomplicated swinger like Soca You Play It, Gill turns around to add jittery melodic pumps on other tunes such as Steam Engine. Here Downing’s walking bass and a light shuffle beat provide solid back-up as burping trombone and heraldic trumpet roll and tongue the theme with lyrical abandon. Another highlight is My Dog Has Fleas, where Willes’ saxophone response to the canine affliction ranges from unaccompanied chromatic, slurs to narrowed and striated shrills to, melodic, decorated peeps, accompanied by the drummer’s rim-shot rebounds and challenged by top-of-range tremolo trombone slides.

Appropriately the final track here is the title tune, for the strength of the performances makes you hope for future Segger sound elaborations.

—Ken Waxman

— For Whole Note Vol. 16 #8