Ricardo Toscano / Albert Cirera / Benny Lackner / André Fernandes / Pedro Branco / João Hasselberg / Nekson Cascais / João Lencastre

January 28, 2022

Unlimited Dreams

Clean Feed CF 580 CD

Jazzlab Orchestra


Effendi Records FND 164

By definition an octet consist of eight musicians. But who the musicians are, what instruments they play and the compositional input on the session are what delineate these programs. As it is with these discs of all original compositions. Together since 2004, and sometime featured in concerts with the likes of Ted Nash or Donny McCaslin, Montréal’s Jazzlab Orchestra consists of some of the city’s most accomplished musicians. Firmly committed to the modern mainstream the Jazzlab band usually features original material, The nine tunes on Loguslabusmuzikus for instance were composed by bassist Alain Bédard.

Rhythmically adhered, the tracks are almost all directed towards higher pitches since three players – Samuel Blais, Mario Allard and Benjamin Deschamps – more often than not solo on soprano saxophone or clarinet, with additional muted textures added from trumpeter Jacques Kuba Séguin. Drummer Michel Lambert specializes in simple paradiddles and rattles and pianist Félix Stüssi adds smooth tinkling and cross patterning. Rather than taking up unneeded space with bass solos, Bédard stays in the background. Meanwhile his writing is distinguished by harmonized horn section crescendos or singular elaborations built around chalumeau clarinet slurs or glossy theme elaborations from one soprano saxophonist. Trombonist Thomas Morelli-Bernard appears to be the only band member free from the overall creamy serenity. His sliding splatter tones enliven “Pum la suite”, especially when following a sequence that could be piano concerto and preceding a group high-pitched ending. Somewhat nervy, his flutters on “Casse-pattes/casse-gueule/casse-tête” set up a challenge to the otherwise busy vamps from the other players. Despite swaying riffs, this track too suffers from almost cloying saxophone solos. Besides that, one tune suggests a cannon and another an Asian inflection, but the most moving expressive us the introductory “La Grande Sauve Majeur”. With movie sound track overtones, its glossy repetitive theme advances a stop-time exposition that maintains a predominating beat despite interludes from trumpet flutters, clarinet trills and sliding piano clips.

That track’s bouncy rhythm is expressed with more heft on “No Filter “, Unlimited Dreams’ penultimate track. But here an irregular plus from drummer João Lencastre and rugged slurs and triple tonguing from saxophonists Ricardo Toscano and Albert Cirera toughen the interface as pressurized riffs harden into a brittle intensity. That’s a key difference between these Lisbon-based and the Montréal session. All the compositions on Unlimited Dreams come from one person: drummer Lencastre and feature Portuguese musicians. If Bédard’s concept is light and airy then Lencastre’s is claustrophobic and consolidated. The instrumentation of this octet also demonstrates these musicians’ differing concepts. Besides the woodwind players Communium features two guitarists (André Fernandes and Pedro Branco), an electric (João Hasselberg) an acoustic bassist (Nelson Cascais) plus Benny Lackner, playing both piano and electronics.

While the tracks on Unlimited Dreams reflect in part Metal as well as smooth ballad motifs, the tunes are never unbalanced in any direction. If the saxes for example start outputting moderated lines as on “The Mystery Path”, hard percussion smacks and elevated piano comping help shift the reed section into split tone and triple tonguing overdrive. Or if, as on “Insomnia”, whammy bar action and taunt knob twisting from the guitarists appear to be vibrating the tune into the Rock area, drum rolls and treble reed sighs help move back toward the slurred fingering of fulsome improvisation.

Nowhere is this more obvious as in the more-than-10-minute title tune. Introduced by simple piano chording, as more instruments are added the exposition appears to pledge allegiance to early Ornette Coleman themes and 1960s modal Jazz, only to use guitar whines and a pumping percussion backbeat to harden the theme. As Lencastre rolls and pops beats from his kit, winnowing guitar and piano lines join in as do riffing horns until a climax is reached with a whole band crescendo followed by a refractive reprise.

Combining sonic piss and vinegar or the Portuguese equivalent, Lencastre’s Communium has come up with prescient contemporary octet music. The Jazzlab Orchestra has fine moments as well. But one wishes that less sweetness and more sweat was on display.

–Ken Waxman

Tack Listing: Loguslabusmuzikus: 1. La Grande Sauve Majeur 2. Humor de la Seconda Noche… 3. Pum la suite 4. Bluesy del Lunedi 5. Criucm 6. Le Grain blanc dans les Voiles 7. Casse-pattes/casse-gueule/casse-tête 8. Lunes & Marées 9. Compte-rendu II

Personnel: Loguslabusmuzikus: Jacques Kuba Séguin (trumpet): Thomas Morelli-Bernard (trombone); Samuel Blais (soprano saxophone, bass clarinet); Mario Allard (soprano and alto saxophones, clarinet); Benjamin Deschamps (soprano and tenor saxophones, flute); Félix Stüssi (piano); Alain Bédard (bass); Michel Lambert (drums)

Track Listing: Unlimited: 1. Clouds 2. Insomnia 3. The Mystery Path 4. Mitote 5. No Filter 6. Unlimited Dreams

Personnel: Unlimited: Ricardo Toscano (alto saxophone); Albert Cirera (tenor and soprano saxophones); Benny Lackner (piano, electronics); André Fernandes and Pedro Branco (guitars); João Hasselberg (electric bass, electronics); Nelson Cascais (bass); João Lencastre (drums)