Holy Seven
Barnyard Records BRO 336

By Ken Waxman

One of the linchpins of Montreal’s Musique Actuelle potpourri, bassist Nicolas Caloia is underneath it all a jazz musician and this session shows off his mastery of the idiom. With Tilting he elaborates his take on jazz by utilizing the talents of fellow travellers baritone saxophonist Jean Derome, pianist Guillaume Dostaler, drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli, and, on one track each, bass clarinetist Lori Freedman and alto saxophonist Yves Charuest. What that means is that his eight compositions tilt towards the freer side of FreeBop without every abandoning underlying rhythms.

With Caloia’s bass sonority directing from behind, and Derome’s bulky low-pitched smears upfront, the band still works effectively to insure weightiness doesn’t turn into logginess. Dostaler is the key here, whether he’s outputting processional cadenzas or comping decorously to knit together seemingly disparate parts. “Holy Seven Fields” is the most traditional of the tunes, with a heavy Charles Mingus influence. On it spirited piano timbres push Derome’s slurps upwards to middle-register expression. More individual are tracks such as “Wren” and “Apart (for Conlon Nancarrow)”. The latter’s title must be an inside joke since Nancarrow’s super-swift pianism isn’t referenced at all; instead “Apart” is memorable for a straight-ahead bass solo. “Wren” balances on Caloia’s fluid continuum as dramatic baritone smears take centre stage. Unsurprisingly Freedman’s bass clarinet adds some needed buoyancy when harmonized with Derome’s sax on “Flox”, with both attaining a climax of tremolo vibrations. As for Charuest, his peeps and judders backed by spiccato string pulls from the bassist on “Locked” create the most dissonant track. Here a frenzied reed counterpoint of shrieked notes finally reassembles amoeba-like into a shimmering whole.

Tilting may be the band’s name, but it’s evident the only direction it leans is towards one made up of unique compositions and performances.

Track Listing: 1. Wren 2. Stare 3. Flox* 4. Drum Intro 5. Holy Seven Fields 6. Apart (for Conlon Nancarrow) 7. Locked+ 8. Novice

Personnel: Jean Derome (baritone saxophone and bass flute); Lori Freedman (bass clarinet)*; Yves Charuest (alto saxophone)+; Guillaume Dostaler (piano); Nicolas Caloia (bass) and Isaiah Ceccarelli (drums)

-A MusicWorks Exclusive Spotlight Review