Lina Allemano Four

August 8, 2023

Pipe Dream
Lumo Records LM 2023-14

Moritz von Kleist
Kunstwesen
AMC 203-1

Putting together a well-integrated quartet session without a chordal instrument involves acumen and awareness, qualities that can be amplified with planning and experience. That why these sessions work so well. Together for nearly two decades, Toronto-based trumpeter Lina Allemano’s Four has gradually expanded its reach to now take on a four-part Allemano composed Plague Diaries suite as well as its usual mix of compositions and improvisations. On board are alto saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser.

On stand alone tracks, interaction is still paramount. Tropes such as elastic drum paradiddles, cymbal slaps, methodical bass buzzes, open-horn brass escalation and slurring reed obbligatos interpret the trumpeter’s themes which take the form of stop-time marches, call-and-response vamps and timbral investigations with tempo changing variables. As drum pitter patter and string thumps maintain horizontal ambulation, the trumpeter especially exposes techniques ranging from inner body tube growls to joyful triplet squeezes. Besides the thematic material the suite includes interludes with a capella solos from each player. West and Dowling benefit the most since the former expresses bent note flutters and variable reed squeaks, while the bassist exhibits his skill with cello-pitched slices, sul tasto continuum and woody reverb.

None of this detracts from thematic consistency since the remainder of the group is present to kick into high gear sequences which connect these extended technique asides to the overriding chamber-like motifs. Staring with “Part II, Trying Not to Freak Out” harsh reed split tones, brass cries and rim shot cracks alternate with soaring portamento harmonies which preserve compositional flow. Resolution take place in the penultimate section of the concluding “Part IV, Doom and Doomer”. Contrapuntal tone variables flow upwards and downwards until reaching a staccato crescendo. It mates bent trumpet notes, nasal reed screeches and ricocheting drum nerve beats and is terminated with brief Arcadian deceleration.

Much simpler in conception and execution than the Allemano disc, the Köln-based quartet on Kunstwesen outlines eight compositions by tenor saxophonist Moritz von Kleist, musically interpreting an equal number of visual art works. von Kleist, who has played with likes of Bert Joris, has the help of other young veterans: trumpeter Ryan Carniaux, bassist Reza Askari and drummer Niles Tegen. But while the pieces maintain a contemporary Jazz groove and serve as a nominal instance of the quartet’s talents, the musical transformation appear more conventional than the art work itself. Depending on the circumstances pieces may resemble a Baroque round, an Free Jazz dirge or a lively Bop extension. Still, besides multiple instances of trumpet and saxophone digressions, alone or in organized harmony, space is left on tunes such as “Großstadt bei Nacht” and “Schriftkreise” for Askari to alternately express his walking or guitar-like string facility; and on the latter and “Insekt” room for Tegen’s interpolations of steadying thumps, paradiddles or surface rubs and abrasions to be heard.

Except for infrequent triplets squeals or brass smears and dragged out saxophone repetition or a reed expression that on “Ich reise ins Ausland” descends from altissimo to basement honk, if they were visual artists, the horn players would be content to always color within the lines. While that makes for some notable mellow harmonies from Carniaux and gritty vamps or thickened statements from von Kleist, almost no note seems out of place and each interpretation often too antiseptically unblemished. Kunstwesen’s music is pleasant enough. But in future one hopes von Kleist and company would aim for and create more exploratory musical canvases.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Pipe: 1. Banana Canon 2. Pipe Dream (on Prokofiev Theme) 3. Dragon Fruit 4. [Plague Diaries, Part I.] Intro: Longing5. [Plague Diaries, Part I] Longing 6. Plague Diaries, Part II] Intro: Trying Not to Freak Out 7. [Plague Diaries, Part II] Trying Not to Freak Out 8. [Plague Diaries, Part III] Intro: Hunger and Murder 9. [Plague Diaries, Part III] Hunger and Murder 10. [Plague Diaries, Part IV] Doom and Doomer

Personnel: Pipe: Lina Allemano (trumpet); Brodie West (alto saxophone); Andrew Downing (bass) and Nick Fraser (drums)

Track Listing: Kunstwesen: 1. Die Erinnerung des Kriege 2. Großstadt bei Nacht 3. Familienfest 4. Der Einkaufsbummel 5. Insekt 6. Schriftkreise 7. Feuerball 8. Ich reise ins Ausland

Personnel: Kunstwesen: Ryan Carniaux (trumpet), Moritz von Kleist (tenor saxophone) Reza Askari (bass) and Nils Tegen (drums)