It’s a fine combination of talents, each with an attentiveness to sound and a predilection for new directions. Allemano possesses both a keen sense of line and a fondness for mutating sounds, first appearing in a timbre and range that suggest the presence of a trombone in the band. Elsewhere her trumpet will mumble asides or leap forth with declarative blasts, sometimes paralleling Franz Hautzinger’s transformations of fusion-era Miles Davis. The pairing with Driver’s synthesizer is particularly effective, each pressing the possibilities of sound, one acoustic, the other electronic. For their part, Clutton and Fraser continuously explore movement in time, whether pressing it forward with multiple metrics, finding ways to tether its insistent progress or tricking it into repeating itself.
Also a quartet, Lina Allemano’s Titanium Riot explores electro-acoustic avenues for Allemano, who with bassist Rob Clutton, drummer Nick Fraser and Ryan Driver manning an analog synth, engage in group improv that amid some electric sounds, flows and breathes organically. Kiss The Brain is the first official document from a band that grew out of Titanium Trio, consisting of a couple of live tracks and four more that were most likely performed ‘live’ in the studio. When you hear the blares and growls of the old synth, the lumbering bass and the crashing drums, it’s not difficult to draw some comparisons to Miles, circa 1974, without the guitars. And Allemano’s deft use of the space between the notes only invites more such comparisons. But the wide range of passion she invests in her horn and her unique enunciations on it owe more to another outward-think trumpet great: Wadada Leo Smith. And Miles never quite got as free as Titanium Riot gets on Kiss The Brain: “Kiss” is a frictionless exchange of ideas where Clutton competes with Allemano for leading remarks and Driver at times assumes the rock guitar role with his synthesizer. As is the pattern for most of their improvs, a blast of energy is expended, followed by some downtime of brooding passages where Allemano ruminates and contemplates. The live “Into the Sprig of Parsley” Fraser lopes along at a stuttering strut as Driver mimics a Farfisa organ. Allemano plays with an unhurried, natural cadence and as the band behind her begins to churn she rides over it instead of accelerating.
”For Heaven’s Snake” is another fine example of how good band synergy can fuel a performance. A lumbering bass, screechy synth sounds and continuously variable timekeeping keeping set the stage for Allemano’s flights on a song that turns on the slightest remark. She slurs her notes on “Nose-Coloured Glasses” pausing to let each remark sink in, then perks up to dramatic effect. In the meantime, Clutton’s bass goes high to take on guitar role alongside Fraser’s twitchy drums and Driver’s synth played like a spooky old organ. It’s an entrancing mix of sinister, chaos and suspense. Lina Allemano’s Titanium Riot plays jazz without barriers or borders using a blank slate and the wherewithal to quickly fill it up with complete sketches that are engaging, provocative and esoteric. Kiss The Brain gets Allemano’s latest project off on solid footing.
-S. Victor Aaron
Pittsburgh, PA (Live review)
There’s this moment that occurs while attending live shows when I think, “This is why I’m alive. This is real life. This is why I work at a shitty job for 8 hours a day and spend 2 hours in a car in traffic etc etc. This is my reward.” This revelation hasn’t occurred at every show I’ve been to, but most. And it typically exists purely in that moment. It’s not something I dwell on or really think about later. The whole world at that moment is right there in front of me. Last week, at the Thunderbird Cafe, that moment came shortly after I arrived, bought a beer and found a nice portion of wall to lean against. It didn’t take long. Lina Allemano and her quartet make music that provokes thought. It’s not dance music. It’s not something I’d even nod my head to or tap along with my foot. It’s like a really interesting, delicate and unpredictable conversation of sorts. Standing there and listening was like watching fine art. I don’t seek out this type of music very often. It’s not something I normally put on the turntable at home or search for on Spotify for my aforementioned commutes. But there’s something about watching this stuff live that is pretty enchanting.
The Toronto-based trumpeter Lina Allemano has created a substantial body of work with the quartet she calls Four, releasing five CDs over the past decade. The last four (since 2006) have included the same musicians–alto saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing, and drummer Nick Fraser–and have codified a distinctive style, matching Allemano’s sometimes playful themes with sustained dialogues in a manner that extends from the pianoless quartets of Ornette Coleman and John Zorn, as well as the Amsterdam school of free jazz. While that band continues to develop (they play occasionally at Toronto’s Tranzac, and tour regularly), Allemano has expanded her own musical horizons, studying with Axel Dörner, the German master of extended trumpet techniques, and travelling extensively in Europe playing in free-improvisation ensembles. Those interests drive her new Toronto group Titanium Riot, which stresses unstructured improvisation, a strong electronic component in Ryan Driver’s analogue synthesizer and the myriad new sounds that issue from Allemano’s trumpet. While bassist Rob Clutton and drummer Nick Fraser might look like a rhythm section, they rarely sound like one here. Instead the band appears to have passed through a mirror, in which the roles and sounds of the band have been exchanged and subtly fused. While Allemano’s trumpet usually figures as a central voice, sounds here rarely possess roles or rote identities, all destabilized by Driver’s electronic resource. A swirl of sound, a sudden sonic explosion, a creak or squeak or squeal might come from bowed bass, struck drum, or tweaked oscillator. It’s a liberation of listening as well as playing. One gradually hears it rather than visualizing its making, hearing it more intensely in the process. Throughout it all, Allemano emerges anew, a powerful minimalist improviser who builds complex moods with just a few blasts and flurries, then drives further into the expressive potential of her instrument with muffled bleats and fractured scales. The sound of her trumpet mutates freely through the multiphonics of “Kiss,” the eerie burbling of “Fumes,” and the new range of “Nose-Coloured Glasses,” touching on fusion-era Miles Davis for declarative upper-register spears of sound and subvocal trills that disappear into the electronic soundscape. As the title implies, Kiss the Brain is a major event.
- STUART BROOMER
Named a “trumpeter of the future” by DownBeat magazine a few years ago, Lina Allemano has touched many of the usual bases, from playing with big bands like NOJO to a host of small bands. Her best vehicle has undoubtedly been her own quartet Four, releasing five CDs of increasingly distinguished and distinctive free-bop over the past decade. While that band continues - joyously so - Allemano is also taking other paths, exploring free improvisation in Europe and studying extended trumpet techniques like multiphonics and circular breathing. The fruits of those explorations are apparent in the first release by her new group Titanium Riot. On Kiss the Brain (Lumo Records LM 2014-6 linaallemano.com), Allemano is a central organizing intelligence set free in imaginative soundscapes created by the bleeps and whistles of Ryan Driver’s analogue synthesizer, Rob Clutton’s churning bass and Nick Fraser’s randomizing percussion. She emerges as a trumpeter of the future more clearly than ever before, a probing, thoughtful improviser who can create form with a few well-placed blasts. The music is as surreal as the names of the pieces, the muddy antique organ tones of “Nose-Coloured Glasses” as oddly compelling as the piece’s title.
- Stuart Broomer
Le nouveau quartette de la trompettiste torontoise Lina Allemano est plus électrique et, surtout, plus expérimental que ce à quoi elle nous avait habitués. D’abord, la basse électrique (Rob Clutton) remplace la contrebasse et le synthétiseur (Ryan Driver) remplace le saxophone. C’est toujours Nick Fraser qui tient la batterie, mais il est vraiment en mode «déconstruction» et le résultat demeure abstrait du début à la fin. On pourrait d’ailleurs reprocher à ce recueil d’improvisations en concert un manque de dynamisme, tant le propos reste inchangé d’une pièce à l’autre, et aussi à Ryan Driver de rester vraiment trop souvent en retrait, parce que ses couleurs électriques, lorsqu’il les utilise, donnent à l’ensemble un relief appréciable. Le 2 octobre au Resonance Café.
- RÉJEAN BEAUCAGE
Improvisation auf hohem Niveau Ein erstklassiges Improvisationstrio gastierte am Samstag im Jazzatelier Ulrichsberg. Trompeterin Lina Allemano, Pianist Achim Kaufmann und Bassist Christian Weber begeisterten mit ihrer Performance. Langsam wird in den Abend gestartet, sorgfältig setzt Allemano ihre Töne. Es verdichten sich die Klänge bis hin zu dunklen, beinahe bedrohlichen Gewitterwolken. Bassist Weber fällt als Richtungsgeber auf. Manches ist auch nah am Geräusch, wenn der Bass perkussiv verfremdet wird, Allemano allerlei Dämpfer verwendet und Achim Kaufmann zärtlich in den Bauch des Flügels greift und die Saiten zupft oder mit diversen Gegenständen präpariert. Trio Allemano/Kaufmann/Weber: Jazzatelier Ulrichsberg (29. 3.)
When I wrote about Toronto trumpeter Lina Allemano in 2010, I noted the unmistakable influence of Ornette Coleman on the scrappy quartet that recorded Jargon, her most recent studio album–but I also pointed out that she transcends that obvious inspiration. Last year’s Live at the Tranzac (Lumo), cut at a Toronto club with drummer Nick Fraser, bassist Andrew Downing, and alto saxophonist Brodie West (who also participated in the Ex’s project with Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria), sounds very similar, but by now I’m familiar enough with Allemano’s aesthetic that Coleman doesn’t even cross my mind. The front line has an endearingly loosey-goosey rapport, and each player cajoles the others or tweaks Allemano’s catchy themes; everyone takes the occasional extended solo, but the most rewarding moments often arise from ensemble interplay. The rhythm section maintains a freewheeling swing sensibility as it carves out space for the soloists, prods the action with knotty grooves or scampering clatter, and provides focused bursts of propulsion (such as the lunging turnaround in “Jack”). The band cools down its usually ebullient freebop on “Hush,” where all four musicians dial back the volume but raise the heat with the taut, fragile intensity of their entangled lines–the horn tones are so tightly restrained that they threaten to dissolve into brittle silence.
Lina Allemano is one of the most exciting new voices of the last few years and a strong sign that Toronto may be the place to head for creative music. She made a splash a year or two ago with Jargon, her Four’s instrumentation – trumpet, alto, bass, drums – invariably conjuring up echoes of the classic Ornette Coleman quartet. That’s definitely the lineage, but the sound-world here is, if you will, northeast rather than southwest. A closer analogy might be the New York Art Quartet with John Tchicai and Roswell Rudd. There’s a delightfully dry, plainspoken quality to Allemano’s brass playing. She isn’t garrulous and isn’t obsessively thirling the upper register, though she can squall with the best of them.
The best word for this music is playful, in the bantering sense. It doesn’t take its avant-gardism too seriously. She may or may not be aware that “jargoning” is the term used by psychologists to describe the post-babbling but pre-verbal form of baby talk. It’s a stage where improvisatory freedom converges with unambiguous meaning. The opening of “Jargon” itself was a tightly voiced unison figure from Allemano and saxophonist Brodie West picked up by drummer Nick Fraser, whose tight rolls are always strikingly effective, and then patiently spun out by bassist Andrew Downing, who might seem the quiet man of the group but is always there with something effective to say and has something of Peter Kowald’s enormous gravitational field, drawing the music into orbital bass tones rather than driving it on in a more obviously linear way.
All this is taken a step further on the splendid Live at the Tranzac from the same group. For some curious reason, these seem more like composed pieces than the earlier record, more conscious of form, trajectory and destination. “Flummox” is a delightful puzzle piece, its dictionary definition being a famous piece of wishful invention on the part of the OED compilers who thought it was probably an English dialect word representing something thrown down roughly and untidily, and it’s Allemano’s great skill to be able to throw away apparently casual phrases that turn out to be absolutely logical and ideally placed. “Atomic Number 22” (which any swotty boy can tell you is titanium) is a more developed performance than many of these, which tend to hover round the five, six, seven minute mark. Again, Downing seems to provide the gravity. It possibly loses energy part way through, and the guiding drone is a little too subfusc to sustain interest for long; but the track is well-placed in a very well chosen program, which doesn’t simply lay out a single club performance but selects material from three nights up to eight months apart in 2011 and 2012.
Great choices, too. “Tiger Swallowtail” has a mysteriously lovely quality, “Hush” and “Spin” are direct and to the point and “Middle Finger”... well, it might be making lots of different gestures but with a smile on its face. There’s no mistaking that Allemano is an important new talent and, perhaps even more important, that she has around her a group that seems to be responsive to her imaginative direction. Hope there’s more on the way.
The beauty of Lina Allemano’s trumpet playing lies in its bottomless depth and glimmering sonority. On her album, Live at the Tranzac, featuring music recorded on three separate occasions during 2012, Ms. Allemano is, by turns, beguiling and straight-talking, but always sensuous as she and her quartet work through enthralling changes chart after chart.
Yet she might surely agree that she is only one-fourth the star of the recording; the other parts being occupied by her equally stellar cast of alto saxophonist Brodie West, double bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser. Together these Torontonian musicians are a glowing tribute to the state of Canada’s contemporary crop of musicians who are at once forward-thinking and, backing that well-spring of novel ideation, who are also technically superb. These are musicians who bring a rare intellect to a large measure of raw–almost primal–energy; whose brooding sensibilities nestle cheek-by-jowl with child-like excitability resulting in music that is fresh, full of dramatic twists and turns and unbridled improvisation following the lead of a trumpet player and musician who leaps off the ledge of history to plunge into a pool of contemporaneity so that she is in the vanguard with players such as Markus Stockhausen and Ingrid Jensen.
Ms. Allemano is well schooled in the history of her instrument. She has, quite obviously, heard most legendary players-from the jungle cries of Bubber Miley to the cool shimmering wail of Bix Beiderbecke; has worked out the wild changes of the bebop players especially Dizzy Gillespie before going the distance with Miles Davis through all of the critical phases of his music. As a result of and largely because of the depth of her study she has not only surfaced for air, but done so with a singular voice full of both the softness and leaping ability of a mad gazelle. As if following suit her music is full of the challenges that befit a player of her supreme ability. This is seen in the elliptical whorls of her melodic invention and in her ability to leap off a musical ledge up into a more rarified plane, with a seemingly innocuous series of notes–or even just one note–from where she will spin off a phrase that is worked forwards and backwards; from the middle and from the end of its starting melody. She is somewhat like Chick Corea in the manner in which she sustains a melody by encouraging her musical cohorts to harmonize freely. And her best music is a combination of fearless melodies, brazen yet subtle harmonies and rhythmic invention that is free of the confines of regular meter, yet without it, plays itself out in and around the demanding pulse of music.
The trumpeter has a natural ability that relates to abstract impressionism with an affinity for keen, Zen- brevity. She is also almost extremely curious and possesses a fetching, graceful feline femininity. The titles of her tunes are mesmerizing in their simplicity. The trumpet, in her hands and at her lips, is like the brush in the hands of a painter worthy of his or her art. In “Flummox” the glassy nature of her perplexing melodic picture is fused into harmonization that brilliantly befits the meandering nature of her palpably vocal arguments with the alto saxophonist. These pictures, seemingly from a gently disturbed jigsaw puzzle all come together in the end, but not before they are moved by the musicians in a painterly fashion around a canvas that is animated by the rhythmic continuity of a musical painting. There is similar expectation in the shimmering aspects of titanium, from where inspiration for “Atomic Number 22” is drawn. “Tiger Swallowtail” calls to mind the rhythmic pulsations of the great butterfly`s wings as it leaps from plane to plane and darts to and from in its world almost too fast for the human eye; stopping only briefly to reveal its brilliant–or in the case of Ms. Allemano`s music, tonal–colours. “Jack,” “Hush” and “Spin” feature an almost Cubist portrait in the former and beguiling impressionistic chamber-like scores in both the other charts. “Middle Finger” suggests that Ms. Allemano can be puckish and delightfully profane in both her attitude to and approach to musical language.
If Lina Allemano has decided to make a working quartet of this group of musicians then she is probably on a winning ticket. Saxophonist Brodie West is certainly a worthy doppelganger as he appears to practically read the trumpeter’s mind at the exact instant when music emerges from her heart and mind through lips. Bassist Andrew Downing plays his role as a rhythmist with a startling amount of melodic intensity and drummer Nick Fraser creates–with the bassist, of course–a breathtaking pulse around which the music exists from moment to moment, with excitement and great expectation. This is a group led by a young visionary, but a group with such unbridled ingenuity that it is certain to go places in a world where the path has been prepared for young musicians with promise to throw caution to the winds and seize the day, just like the Lina Allemano Four does on Live at the Tranzac.
-Raul da Gama
English translation (excerpt): Complex, avantgarde initiative from an interesting Canadian jazz quartet... leader, composer and trumpeter Lina Allemano (who is of Danish/Italian background) has a love for the advanced avantgarde. Live at the Tranzac is exactly that: advanced avantgarde, an innovative combination of sketches of compositions and free-flowing instrumental improvisations. The album reflects, as it were, a possible consequence of little structure and much freedom. Live at the Tranzac is complex and demanding and completely devoid of pandering to the listener. But Live at the Tranzac also offers an extremely interesting example of how much synergy can be attained by letting four courageous jazz musicians loose on the same stage. The album exudes vitality and openness and the will to both listen and give it all you’ve got.
Komplekst, avantgardistisk udspil fra interessant canadisk jazzkvartet. Med den – for et jazzorkester – lidt usædvanlige instrumentsammensætning (ingen klaver, men en trompet, en saxofon, en bas og et trommesæt) er den canadiske kvartet en udfordring for lytteren. For med to blæsere (i stedet for et klaver og én blæser) bliver udtrykket umiddelbart – i hvert fald i dette tilfælde – mere insisterende. At dét er tilfældet skyldes selvfølgelig også, at kapelmesteren, komponisten og trompetisten, Lina Allemano (som er af dansk/italiensk oprindelse), har en kærlighed til det avantgardistisk avancerede. Live at the Tranzac er netop dét: avanceret avantgarde, en innovativ kombination af skitser af kompositioner og frit flydende instrumentale improvisationer. Albummet afspejler så at sige en mulig konsekvens af lidt struktur og megen frihed. Live at the Tranzac er komplekst og krævende og helt blottet for leflen for lytteren. Men Live at the Tranzac er også et yderst interessant bud på, hvor megen synergi man kan opnå ved at slippe fire modige jazzmusikere løs på samme scene. Albummet emmer af vitalitet og åbenhed og af vilje til både at lytte og trykke sig selv af.
The “Four” in Lina Allemano’s band’s moniker is apt. Live at the Tranzac starts with a geometric four-note figure on “Flummox,” and throughout the album, the Toronto trumpeter demonstrates a penchant for rectangular shapes in her cool contemporary post-bop. To “flummox” means to perplex or bewilder, and that title is perhaps less apt, as these seven pieces gradually bewitch, even as they structurally perplex the casual listener. Live at the Tranzac, the band’s fifth recording since 2003, is indeed recorded live at the Toronto creative-jazz hotspot, and thanks to crystal-clear recording by Fedge, you might swear you were in a vintage Blue Note studio, until you hear the intimate smattering of applause between pieces, at which point you can practically taste the draft beer and imagine the musicians’ tip jar headed your way. Allemano is joined by some of the long-time stars of that scene: Brodie West (Eucalyptus, Drumheller, Getatchew Mekurya &The Ex) on alto with the ever-prolific pairing of Andrew Downing on double bass and Nick Fraser on drums. Though there are plenty of contemplative moments throughout, the band really cooks together about a third of the way into “Atomic Number 22,” with Downing slashing at single chords while Allemano and West wail away with dueling horns that make you wish you were sitting there at one of those delightfully grimy bar tables.
The Lina Allemano Four has achieved remarkably consistent form, maintaining the same personnel for their fourth consecutive CD (beginning with Pinkeye in 2006). Trumpeter Allemano is joined by Brodie West on alto saxophone, Andrew Downing on bass and Nick Fraser on drums on Live at the Tranzac (Lumo Records, linaallemano.com), the Toronto bar providing a comfortable setting for these close-knit, highly conversational dialogues on the leader’s compositions. The style is free jazz, the band reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s original quartet, but the music couldn’t be more disciplined, the band working hand-in-glove to realize the most from each of Allemano’s tunes.
Het was de bedoeling dat de vierde release van dit Canadese kwartet opnieuw een studio-cd werd maar bij herbeluistering van de opnamen die Lina Allemano &Co maakten in hun vertrouwde club in Toronto vonden ze deze zo goed dat ze opteerden voor een live-cd. Het resultaat: hoekige hedendaagse jazz verankerd in een boptraditie maar verrijkt met een gezonde zin voor experiment. Onverwachte koerswijzigingen zijn daarbij aan de orde van de dag. Er wordt vooral ook heel nerveus en op het scherp van de snee gemusiceerd. Tijdens het concert in Le Cercle Des Vovageurs (dé Brusselse plek waar momenteel heel wat interessante dingen gebeuren) stelden we vast dat de groep nog sterker, intenser en overtuigender klonk. Een tip voor een uitgebreide tournee in onze contreien.
-Georges Tonla Briquet
The first seven notes of “Flummox,” the leadoff track from Lina Allemano Four’s Live at the Tranzac, immediately conjure up comparisons to Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come. Playing her trumpet with that same thrown-off gangster cool that made Coleman such a decisive figure, the Toronto, ON trumpeter gives listeners a full-length tribute to the classic era of free jazz on her third LP. Where contemporaries like Ken Vandermark or Matthew Shipp navigate their groups through canals of primitive noise, Allemano prefers to hover above the rocky terrain, using short bursts of melodies and sustained pitch to return the fêted genre back to its basic roots. Using un-accentuated tones as compositional accents, Allemano and alto sax player Brodie West find themselves constantly climbing and descending, allowing double-bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser to create some distinctive rhythms. Live at the Tranzac is a blissful throwback album from a forever futuristic genre.
Reviewers need to give some context and references for readers to understand through words what the music sounds like. This Canadian quartet consists of Lina Allemano on trumpet, Brodie West on alto saxophone, Andrew Downing on double bass, and Nick Fraser on drums. This “Ornette Coleman quartet” line-up says something about the band’s roots, but then again not enough. The band indeed cherishes melody and rhythm, as the basis to start form, opening the compositions wide for further explorations, but never too far.
I’d been thinking at times about other modern OC quartets such as the Empty Cage Quartet, or Ideal Bread, yet these comparisons fail too. They don’t have the broad aspirations of the former, nor the specific focus of the latter, ... or the Nordic IPA, with Magnus Broo, ... and no, that’s not it either. It all sounds so familiar, so accessible though, so recognizable in a way, but then it is not. It’s all so different too. Open themes, unison beginnings, and then playful explorations, sometimes soloing, sometimes layering the solos, but always lyrical, always contained, always playful, always joyful. And that’s possibly the quartet’s major strength : they really enjoy what they do. Or let me put it differently, the quality of the compositions invite the musicians to enjoy themselves, and the audience as a result, as you can experience from this live recording.
It is not expansive, nor is it intimate either. It is not loud and not quiet. It is absolutely not mainstream, but it is also not really free either. You get the feeling. It is lyrical with an edge, abstract lyricism if you want, for lack of a better word. But then that is not right either. It’s far too emotional to be called abstract.
Sorry, I give up. It’s too hard to describe. Lina Allemano and her band have created an eclectic sound that makes its own synthesis of tradition and avant-garde, of structure and freedom, of clever composition and emotional depth, of abstraction and warmth. It is not spectacular, it is just beautiful and moving and fun. And that’s a lot.
- Stef Gijssels
Freejazz wordt vaak afgedaan als hypercomplexe, voortdurend van de hak op de tak springende idioterie voor ADHD’ers, muzikanten onder elkaar en een paar verdwaalde onnozelaars voor wie het allemaal niet maf genoeg kan zijn. In sommige gevallen is dat nog waar ook, maar zeker niet bij dit kwartet, dat een bijzonder geslaagde plaat uitbrengt die uitblinkt in homogeniteit.
Allemano wordt door de lokale kenners al langer beschouwd als een van de boeiendste trompettisten van Canada. Naast een trio en het collectief improviserende “N” focust ze vooral op haar eigen kwartet, waarvan dit intussen al het vijfde album is. Sinds Pinkeye (2006) bestaat de line-up uit Allemano, altsaxofonist Brodie West (ook geen onbekende van de Amsterdamse scene en vaste klant in de band van The Ex &Getatchew Mekuria), bassist Andrew Downing en Nick Fraser, en die ongedwongen intimiteit van oude bekenden straalt dan ook af van Live At The Tranzac, dat in 2011 en 2012 werd opgenomen in thuisstad Toronto.
De stukken op de meeste (free)jazzalbums kan je doorgaans opdelen in een paar vaste categorieën. Je hebt een paar trage slepers, wat hyperkinetische uitschieters, hier en daar brokken die expliciet aanleunen bij de traditie (met Monk als eeuwige favoriet) en dan heb je natuurlijk nog het obligate stukje van de drummer of bassist. Hier is zo’n simplistische verdeling een pak moeilijker te maken. Ten eerste omdat hier nergens de behoefte gevoeld wordt om boude statements te maken of de spierballen te laten rollen en ten tweede omdat dit kwartet heel goed zijn sterktes kent. Deze vier moeten het niet hebben van eclectische collages, virtuoze racewedstrijden of vervreemdende passages, maar stukken die soms ronddraaien op een vierkante meter, maar die dan wel volledig benutten.
Het knappe is dat er daarbij een heel subtiel evenwicht gevonden wordt tussen gecomponeerd en vrij geïmproviseerd materiaal, waarbij de vele referenties naar eerder aangehaalde thema’s en de talloze variaties daarop, aantonen hoe goed deze muzikanten vertrouwd zijn met het basismateriaal en vooral elkaars manier van inpikken. Stukken als “Flummox”, “Jack” en het toepasselijk getitelde “Hush” pakken uit met elegante melodieën, maar vermijden dat de houdbaarheid van die stukken wordt overschreden. In plaats daarvan wordt voortdurend de zone net buiten dat materiaal verkend, waardoor je geprikkeld wordt, maar zelden zonder houvast achterblijft.
Dat wordt ook sterk uitgewerkt in “Tiger Swallowtail”, waarin het lijkt alsof de muzikanten elk over een stukje van de puzzel beschikken en dat naar believen kunnen inzetten of niet. Zitten ze nu eens op één lijn, dan begint het daarna op de linker- of rechterflank te ontrafelen, is er eentje die even een zijspoor opzoekt, om vervolgens terug te keren naar de groep, om dan vast te stellen dat een ander die dwaalrol intussen opgenomen heeft. Dit creëert een komen en gaan van impulsen die de coherentie eigenlijk alleen maar versterken. Het zorgt er dan ook voor dat Live At The Tranzac, ondanks z’n individuele kwaliteiten (Allemano en Brodie schitteren bvb. met een expressief duel in “Atomic Number 22”), een echte groepsplaat is.
Zorgen de statige harmonieën van het slaaplied “Hush” voor een moment van extra ingetogenheid, dan gaat de energie weer de hoogte in voor het slotduo “Spin” en “Middle Finger”, waarvan het eerste aandacht afdwingt die inzoomt op de inventieve ritmesectie en het tweede het aanstekelijke sluitstuk is met een groove die voortdurend dreigt te imploderen, maar dat nét niet doet. Met meer van die stukken zou Live At The Tranzac nog toegankelijker worden, maar het strekt de band tot eer dat hij niet kiest voor gemakkelijkheidsoplossingen, maar inzet op een eigen karakter en diepgaande verkenning, wat leidt tot een plaat die pas na meerdere beluisteringen zijn creativiteit en karakter helemaal blootgeeft. Te ontdekken.
For casual observers of jazz (if such people exist), the Toronto scene probably seems like little more than an annual festival or a soundtrack for post-work beers at The Rex. But for years now, there’s been an extremely fertile indie-jazz movement located in and around the Annex’s longstanding DIY culture hub, The Tranzac.
It’s fitting, then, that one of the city’s most promising jazzers, trumpeter Lina Allemano–one of the instrument’s top innovators, according to Downbeat Magazine–has called her fifth full-length as bandleader simply, Live at the Tranzac. The album finds her once again teaming up with three other Tranzac aces: saxophonist Brodie West and drummer Nick Fraser, both of whom are members of one of the Annex hub’s most enduring experimental jazz outfits, Drumheller, and classical/jazz double bassist Andrew Downing.
Allemano’s group draws on the same thrillingly intuitive free-jazz that powers Drumheller’s aesthetic, but on their most recent effort, the playing is much sharper, with the soloists focused more on exploring melodies than textures. Album closer “Middle Finger” skips along on Fraser’s Latin beat, while even the lengthy “Atomic Number 22” keeps things interesting by balancing the frenetic group solos in the front half with an elegantly meditative coda.
Allemano has been one of the few local players to bridge the gap between avant-garde and mainstream audiences, and this album is yet another argument for the latter group to give her a much bigger spotlight the next time the festival rolls around.
- Chris Bilton
In deze grenzeloze tijd, waarin genreaanduidingen er steeds minder toe doen, blijft het zaak om muziek enigszins te plaatsen, dat is handig voor de programmeurs en zeker ook voor het publiek. Het lijkt tegenwoordig haast een vernedering als je als band of artiest een label opgespeld krijgt, zonder dat daarbij direct vermeld wordt dat je je uiteraard niets aantrekt van hokjes. Handvatten blijven echter nodig om duidelijkheid te scheppen.
In het persbericht dat de cd ‘Live at the Tranzac’ begeleidt, wordt Lina Allemano Four een avant-garde jazzband genoemd. Maar het kan toch niet zo zijn dat muziek waarmee muzikanten vijftig jaar geleden in de voorhoede liepen, anno nu nog steeds vernieuwend kan worden genoemd. Lina Allemano Four speelt in een traditie - die van Ornette Coleman ten tijde van de opkomst van de freejazz - en is daarom per definitie geen avant-garde. Dat neemt niet weg dat de band en met name Allemano zelf wel degelijk inventieve elementen laat horen, maar die toevoeging aan een historische stijl geeft het kwartet eerder de kwalificatie eclectisch dan avant-gardistisch.
De Canadese Allemano voert verschillende klankexperimenten uit met de trompet, waaraan gewaagde technieken ten grondslag liggen. Zij ontlokt daarmee allerlei ongebruikelijke geluiden aan het instrument, uiteenlopend van het fijne stemmetje van een piepkuiken tot het grove geluid van een schuurmachine of gereutel en gerochel. Soms zaaien Allemano en saxofonist Brodie West verwarring door de mogelijke geluiden van elkaars instrumenten te imiteren en is niet duidelijk wie wat bespeelt. Wel wordt helder dat de trompettist het spectrum van haar instrument aardig uitbreidt.
Het samenspel op ‘Live at the Tranzac’ is van een zeer goed niveau, want deze hoogwaardige wijze van communiceren stuwt de ander op en verloopt zonder enige ruis. De collectiviteit van de vier kent geen enkele rangorde van ritmesectie tegenover solerenden. Bassist Andrew Downing en drummer Nick Fraser veroorloven zich beslist meer vrijheid dan in het verleden gebruikelijk was bij een ritmetandem. De interactie laat de open structuren goed tot hun recht komen, waarbij de abstracte noten aan betekenis winnen. Lina Allemano Four doet de traditie recht en voegt daar nieuwe aspecten aan toe, dat is prima, avant-garde of niet.
-Jan Jasper Tamboer
Kanadische Freigeister Man nehme zwei legendäre «Jazz-Klassiker», die um 1960 herum entstanden sind - «The Shape of Jazz to Come» von Ornette Coleman sowie «Charles Mingus presents Charles Mingus» - und füge der Schnittmenge dieser widerborstigen, quirlig-expressiven Aufnahmen ein paar aktuelle Spielkonzepte (vertrackte Grooves, Mikrointervallik zum Beispiel) hinzu: Dann ist man in der Soundzone gelandet, in der sich Lina Allemano mit ihrem Quartett bewegt. Nach der furiosen Postbop-virtuosin Ingrid Jensen gibt es mit Allemano eine weitere tolle Trompeterin aus Kanada zu entdecken. Allemano schreibt spannende Stücke, die zwischen Komplexität und anarchischer Freiheit oszillieren. Neben Allemano glänzt Brodie West als zugleich subtiler und ausdrucksstarker Altsaxofonist (er und seine «Chefin» improvisieren oft im Tandem) - der Bassist Andrew Downing und der Schlagzeuger Nick Fraser bringen die Band in Schwung, leisten sich aber auch den einen oder anderen subversiven Schlenker.
- Tom Gsteiger
Overdonderend is Live at the Tranzac, de vierde cd van de Lina Allemano Four niet te noemen. Als de muziek van het kwartet van de Canadese trompettiste een boek zou zijn, dan was het zeker geen vuistdik dramatisch epos. Hoogstens een novelle, maar dan wel een waarbij de karakters mooi uitgediept worden.
Van overdreven virtuositeit kunnen de muzikanten en Allemano in het bijzonder niet beschuldigd worden. Extreme tessituren of volumes worden vermeden, net als hyperkinetisch uitgespuwde vingervlugheid. Vooral Allemano zet integendeel zwaar in op lyriek en vertoeft graag in het middenregister, kenmerken die mooi passen bij haar heldere toon.
Altsaxofonist Brodie West is net iets beweeglijker, maar dan nog gaat niemand tot het uiterste, waardoor de groep een opvallend compact geluid krijgt. Meer zelfs: het hele kwartet klinkt bij momenten zelfs uitgesproken zangerig en lichtvoetig. Allemano en altsaxofonist Brodie West kunnen een warm en zacht geluid neerzetten en kronkelen bij momenten mooi rond elkaar. Ook drummer Nick Fraser en bassist Andrew Downing zijn begaan met sound, wat meteen het secure van het viertal extra in de verf zet.
De composities van Allemano zijn op maat gesneden voor het genuanceerde geluid van de groep, of omgekeerd. In Hush en Middle Finger lijken de uitgeschreven lijnen niet meer dan schetsen. Bij andere composities is er, hoewel het melodische materiaal ook daar eenvoudig blijft, meer uitwerking met eenstemmige passages die plots overgaan naar geharmoniseerd samenspel. Dit gevoel voor details is ook te horen in de ontwikkeling van de stukken. Met het her en der terugkeren van het basismateriaal en de schijnbaar spontaan ontluikende arrangementen, laat de band een organische klank horen met stukken die uit verschillende geledingen ontstaan die op een heel vanzelfsprekende manier uit elkaar voortkomen.
Wat de muziek echter het boeiendst maakt, zijn de kleine nuances en de momenten van gecontroleerde actie: de vertragende drums in Flummox , of het spel van veranderende harmonie en dynamiek tussen de blazers in het net iets meer groovende Jack . In dit laatste stuk vouwt de band overigens ook voor het eerst wat verder open, maar tot een explosie laten Allemano en haar collega s het niet komen. Het kluwen van lijnen blijft beheerst, ook wanneer er resoluut gekozen wordt voor gelijkwaardige, polyfone vrijheid. Zelfs in deze duidelijke free passages blijft het viertal trouw aan haar esthetiek, wat niet betekent dat er ritmisch geen wrijvingen (en de daarmee samenhangende spanning) ontstaan. Integendeel: niets muzikaals is de Lina Allemano Four vreemd. En net dat maakt Live at the Tranzac , in alle bescheidenheid en soberheid, tot een boeiende cd die laat horen dat moderne jazz en vrije improvisatie niet per definitie moet afschrikken.
-Koen Van Meel
Nu er det nok ikke så tit, at du går og tænker på canadiske avantgardetrompetister og nok endnu mindre på de kvindelige af slagsen. Men hvis du gjorde det, så var der en reel chance for, at Lina Allemano’s navn poppede op i din bevidsthed. Lige nu er der en god chance for, at stifte et nærmere bekendtskab med Allemano. Hun kommer til Danmark d. 6. oktober, hvor hun spiller i kirken på Blågårds Plads sammen med hendes kvartet. Lina Allemano har ikke optrådt i Danmark før. Det bliver uden tvivl en følelsesmættet affære for hende, da hendes mor netop er fra København.
Det er ikke det brutale trompetspil, som Allemano holder sig til. Hun har en følsom og klar tone, hvor avantgardeudtrykket viser sig i de skæve kompositioner som Allemano er ophavskvinden bag. Det er det fjerde album med den samme besætning siden 2006, som Allemano er ude med. Kvartetten arbejder meget i det kollektive udtryk, hvor sammenspillet åbner op for fornemme detaljer. Lina Allemano Four er ikke kun tæt sammenspillet. Der er flere dimensioner i spillet, hvor de undersøger musikken sammen. Der lukkes op og de viser frem. Fællesskabet er omdrejningspunktet. Altsaxofonisten Brodie West har et helt særligt tag på musikken.Der er en god chance for, at københavnske avantgardefreaks kan få en særlig oplevelse i kirken til oktober.
The comparisons between Lina Allemano and Don Cherry are inevitable. Both share the same instrument and the Allemano Four play in the same free jazz tradition that Don Cherry blazed with the Ornette Coleman Quartet. While that comparison is largely positive - born out of a love for the music Don Cherry gave us all - Lina Allemano is her own musician and on Jargon she is following her own, compelling muse. Her partners in crime on this recording are tuned into that same muse as they bring a near-harmolodic precision to the waxing and waning of complementary lines. The result is stunning in an unassuming way. Jargon builds nicely on a tradition that understandably continues to inspire.
Don’t be misled by the wee bit of name-dropping that crops up on Jargon, the latest disc from Toronto trumpeter Lina Allemano.
The disc’s opening tune is called Cannonball Adderley Tattoo, but it’s no bluesy, soul-drenched hard-bopper. Nor is Wayne’s Shorts, the slower, austere tune that follows, particularly Shorterian, although it has its magisterial moments.
Instead, like the seven tunes by Allemano that make up the disc, they’re concise, ear-catching springboards for compelling, free-bopping group improvisation. Although Jargon, at 41 minutes total, is on the shorter side in terms of length, its long on spirited musical conversations between Allemano, alto saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser.
The Cannonball and Wayne references to the contrary, you might be more reminded instead of the early avant-jazz of players such as Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Steve Lacy and Andrew Hill.
I like the keen edge of the music in [Cannonball Adderley Tattoo], and especially the way in which Allemano and West play with and against each other, alternating counterpoint and unison.
Sling Slang is a bit of free-bopping sing-song that especially highlights the mind-meld between Allemano and West as they dovetail spiralling lines and textures. The title track allows drummer Fraser to step forward from the get-go before the music becomes wide-open and filled with surprises. At once tender and quirky, Water and Puddle show how Allemano approaches balladry. Guadalajara, which concludes the CD, stretches a bit longer than the other tracks and feels very much justified in its a extended journey. On this track, Fraser’s tumbling, organic grooving really reflects that special thing thaty he does.
You may not be able to tell where the composition ends and the improvisation begins in the tunes of Toronto trumpeter Lina Allemano, but it doesn’t really matter much as your ears get tossed between the four corners of her quartet with alto saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser. The tunes crackle with energy, and the group itself pours its distinct personalities into every surprise-filled passage.
Lina Allemano is no traditionalist. The Toronto-based jazz trumpet player likes to experiment and pull a myriad of sounds out of her trumpet.
“I like to see what I can get out of the instrument, as far as a whole dynamic range, and lots of textures and colours,” she said. “It’s not a traditional way of playing the trumpet...but I got really interested in making other sounds on it right away; I just felt like I could express so many things through the instrument.”
Originally from Edmonton, Allemano studied jazz in her hometown, in Toronto, and with a teacher in New York. While she was never a jazz traditionalist, Allemano said that she credits the move to Toronto for her shift towards experimentation, as the city introduced her to like-minded musicians.
Her unique approach has garnered attention from various publications, including Downbeat Magazine, which featured her as one of the top innovative trumpeters for the future. Jargon, the newest release by Allemano’s band, Lina Allemano Four, was listed in Eye Weekly’s Best Toronto Albums, and as one of Exclaim! Magazine’s Improv and Avant-Garde Albums of the Year.
Lina Allemano Four are currently touring the East Coast, playing material from Jargon, and new unreleased material they’ve been compiling for their next album. The band prides itself on combining composition and improvisation, so that their onstage performances are each singular, unique experiences.
“People can tell that we’re really interacting and being really spontaneous, and I think just about anyone can hear that, even if they’re not really steeped in jazz,” said Allemano.
Trumpeter Lina Allemano is a rising star among younger musicians who chose the freedom highway of improvised music to express and create.
Her latest CD, Jargon (Lumo Records), is a showcase of her talent as performer, leader and composer, on seven originals. The music is a highly original and creative mix of time signatures, textures, melodies, off-the-wall arpeggios and repeated motifs. The music has its serious moments, but it never overpowers. Allemano believes in allowing the music to breathe, leaving lots of space for her improv to take shape in a non-aggressive way.
At its core, the music is replete with humour, a lightness that lifts the spirit.
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon
Some jazz combos only look back ("Jazz died in 1958"), some only forward ("Can these cats even play?"), but this Toronto quartet bridges the divide. The opening track, "Cannonball Adderley's Tattoo," reveals a bop influence, and the blend of trumpeter Allemano and saxophonist Brodie West has that sweet sliding-in-and-out-of-unison feel. But these seven mid-tempo tunes have a rhythmic freedom, melodic angularity and open space that hint at modernism. Cool and inviting.
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon
Quatrième enregistrement pour le quartette de Toronto, mais c'est le troisième qui regroupe les mêmes musiciens, ensemble depuis 2006. Avec Andrew Downing à la contrebasse et Nick Fraser à la batterie, la trompettiste Lina Allemano a derrière elle une très solide section rythmique, capable de belles subtilités dans les moments les plus abstraits, mais ce sont vraiment ses dialogues avec le saxophoniste alto Brodie West qui volent le show. On a là une variété de bop qui ne se court pas après la queue, mais prend le temps de se déployer, même sur un beat presque lourd par (trop courts!) moments (Sling Slang).
Five questions for Lina Allemano
Toronto trumpeter and composer Lina Allemano has really made it happen for her group, the Lina Allemano Four, over the years. I count roughly 100 gigs over the last five years, not only at their home base, the Tranzac in Toronto, but at venues from Victoria to St. John's in Canada as well as hospitable surroundings in Chicago, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Seattle and other U.S. cities. A player and composer with a compelling vision that embraces jazz's inside and outside sounds, Allemano deserves additional props for her road warrior's determination to get her band and music heard, wherever there are jazz fans.
The trumpeter's latest travels wind down this week, as she, alto saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser play in Kingston, Wakefield, and Montreal. Yesterday, from somewhere between St. John's and Belleville, she answered my questions below.
1. Why did you settle on this instrumentation and these particular players for the Lina Allemano Four?
I wanted to play with these specific guys, no matter what instruments they played, because of the combination of their virtuosic skills, extreme musicality and creativity, their intuitive ability to listen and react, and the overall chemistry we have as a group. The instrumentation was sort of an afterthought, but it has become an important part of the way I compose for the group and the group's distinctive and open sound.
2. On Jargon, there's so much collective improvising and conversational/simultaneous blowing by you and Brodie. How did that kind of playing come to play such a large role in the sound of your music?
I became very interested in the idea of seamlessly melding together two of my favourite genres: jazz and freely improvised music. With this group, I feel like we've done this successfully ‐ there are strong compositional elements combined with collective improvising, and the musical connection between Brodie and me seems to be a strong and natural one.
3. What's your take ‐ to put it perhaps too simply &dasp; playing free on tunes?
With this group, we have perhaps a different approach from other "free jazz" playing in that we are always referring to and drawing from the composition in our improvisations. So instead of playing "free," we think of it more as developing the composition spontaneously by improvising on the motifs and other musical material as a group. It's tricky but also exciting!
4. If I can throw a few names at you and ask you what you think of immediately as a result:
Ingrid Jensen: good friend, inspirational, and a ridiculously amazing trumpeter!
Dave Douglas: super great guy, very supportive, another ridiculously amazing trumpeter!
Kenny Wheeler: Canadian icon, so unique, so important!
5. Regarding you as a listener, what's the last musical experience (live or recorded) that really had a big impact on you one way or another, and why did it do what it did to you?
This summer I played a double bill in a beautiful wooden church, opening for the great French bassist Joëlle Léandre. Her performance was so amazing, so moving... throughout her set, I laughed and I cried... it was intense! She gave a riveting, passionate and honest performance, one that I will remember for a long, long time. Truly inspiring.
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon
Trumpeter Lina Allemano's pianoless quartet uses her oblique compositions as a launch pad for nuanced improvisation. The opening track, "Cannonball Adderley Tattoo," grabs the listener's attention immediately. Andrew Downing (bass) and Nick Fraser (drums) lay down a polyrhythmic beat, and Allemano and alto saxophonist Brodie West harmonize on a languid theme right out of the Adderley playbook. After a few dissonant shrieks, trumpet and sax begin soloing simultaneously, sinuously anticipating each other's ideas. Hard bop gives way to free bop, the group ultimately sounding more like Ornette Coleman's quartet than any of Adderley's groups.
Best Toronto Albums of 2010 -
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon (Lumo): The alchemy between Allemano's trumpet and Brodie West's saxophone is surely one of the most beautiful musical pairings in Toronto. Jargon showcases Allemano's veteran ensemble absolutely inhabiting her deeply detailed compositions. As usual, Nick Fraser distinguishes himself on drums, while Andrew Downing's bass makes all the right moves rhythmically and melodically. Abstraction reigns within these arrangements, but this is music that invites more than just jazz aficionados along for the ride.
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon
Some recordings test reviewers' reflexes more than others. Jargon, the third by the Lina Allemano Four, is one of them, evidenced by the nearly universal front-loading of references to the classic Ornette Coleman quartet in initial reviews. Certainly, the bustling energy of the tartly named opening piece, "Cannonball Adderley Tattoo," the bounce of "Sling Slang" and the appealingly loose rapport between the Toronto-based trumpeter, alto saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser is more than sufficient to elicit the OC reflex. But, there's arguably a larger, more contemporary shadow Allemano has to sidestep – Dave Douglas'. Certainly, Douglas' impressively diverse portfolio is largely far afield from Allemano's agenda with her Four; but Douglas' work with his '90s Magic Triangle quartet is quite germane, even though Chris Potter played tenor in the band. Douglas brought a rare facility to this configuration; instead of approximating Coleman's slyly shambling ensembles, Douglas' trademark precision as a trumpeter and his writing's smart phrase-turning set a rather polished high bar, one from which a trumpeter-composer could easily slip. Allemano responds well to the challenge, triangulating the vocabularies of the two composers with the languid blues feel of "Water" and the hushed long tones and pensive four-note motive upon which "Puddle" is built. Allemano's admirable restraint, West's breathy, occasionally nappy tone and the finely calibrated support of Downing and Fraser on both tracks impressively suggest that Allemano and her cohorts know how to create winning performances from small details and understatement. Subsequently, when the quartet heats up and moves outside on "Guadalajara" – its emphatically accented theme is the date's most Douglas-like passage – their exchanges vault way above the generic flailing that too often currently passes for four-star jazz. These moments are also where the comparison to Coleman's quartet is most apt, but it still falls short, as foundational materials bear little to no resemblance to Coleman's. Still, Allemano, whose playing can grab listeners by their collars just as surely as it can insinuate itself in more lyrical moments, imbues the date with a this-is-our-music confidence that is infectious. Her command of the proceedings is also measured by the running time of this impeccably sequenced album – at a daringly scant 40 minutes, she leaves the listener wanting more.
Improv & Avant-Garde Albums of the Year -
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon
Usually, to find a band this together, playing free jazz with this depth, resourcefulness and confidence, you'd have to take a trip to New York. Luckily, we've got this formidable foursome in Canada. Trumpeter/composer Lina Allemano has written some strong tunes within an Ornette Coleman orbit. To her credit, her pieces are inspired by that visionary but are anything but derivative. Tunes like "Sling Slang" and "Jargon" give her and altoist Brodie West melodic material to playfully extrapolate and interpolate upon, and drummer Nick Fraser is a standout throughout.
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon
Trumpeter Lina Allemano is at the forefront of free jazz innovation and glides appealingly on Lina Allemano Four - Jargon with regular colleagues Brodie West (also sax), Andrew Downing (bass) and Nick Fraser (drums). The leader composed all seven songs, the opening Cannonball Adderley Tattoo not soulful but surging over churning bass and stimulating rat-a-tat drums. The quartet treats time like a toy, sampling all possible permutations. West's tart tone and distanced viewpoint suits Wayne's Shorts a nod to Shorter's mysterious writing and playing while Sling Slang is almost hard bop, textures colouring a sparse theme with uninhibited horns scrambling over an undulating rhythmic landscape. Water is wistful fragments, the title tune channels another altoist (Ornette Coleman) before sliding into dissonance and feverish feeling, while fresh emotional tempests and pungent probing conclude the session which, unfortunately, is far too short – just 40 minutes.
Lina Allemano: A Canadian jazz secret
Named one of "25 Trumpeters for the Future" by Downbeat magazine in 2007, Lina Allemano is one of Canada's best-kept jazz secrets. Her quartet has earned comparisons to groups led by Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman, and she will celebrate the release of her fourth album, Jargon, with a show at the Tranzac in Toronto on Sunday.
WHY SHE MATTERS
As a trumpeter, Allemano has an immediately recognizable tone – a crisp, focused sound that's both understated and eloquent. "I always had a pretty clear idea of how I wanted to sound," she says. Instead of emphasizing power, as some trumpeters do, Allemano worked on "control of texture and inflection," to ensure that her playing remained expressive. "I like the idea that I can make a note sound any way I like at any given moment," she says.
That focus on colour and nuance also comes across in her work as a band leader. Although her quartet, which includes alto saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser, favours free-flowing rhythm over mainstream jazz swing, both the writing and the improvisation remain tuneful, conveying an original and highly personal approach to modern jazz.
WHAT SHE'S DONE
Allemano arrived in Toronto in 1993, having applied to the University of Toronto's jazz program at the urging of saxophonist Mike Murley. "When I was in Edmonton at college, he came and did a workshop," she recalls. "I was trying to figure out if I wanted to go to school. He said, 'You've got to come to Toronto,' and it turned out I really liked it here."
Toronto liked her as well, and she made a splash in the jazz world almost immediately. " got to do a lot of subbing for [trumpeter] Kevin Turcotte while I was there, so it got me right into the scene right away," she says. She didn't remain a substitute for long, though, and joined a number of Toronto jazz groups, from the Jane Fair/Rosemary Galloway Quintet to the Neufeld-Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra. She even did a session with the rock group Sloan (for the album Navy Blues).
WHERE SHE'S GOING
Last month, Allemano's quartet did a 10-date swing through the United States that took them from Cambridge, Mass., to Seattle. Booking a tour like that is, she says, "really difficult. But then, once you're on the tour, it's so amazing and fun, and you go, 'Yeah – is why I spent a whole year doing this.' "
Finding an audience can be a struggle even for established jazz musicians, but it's particularly difficult for groups like Allemano's, which don't fit easily into established pigeonholes.
Allemano understands that radio stations and jazz clubs can be reluctant to play new music. "They say it's too crazy or too weird, and there's no audience for it," she says. "But any time somebody does take a chance, and plays one of my tunes on the radio, or I play a gig somewhere, nobody ever says, 'That's weird.' I usually get rave responses, and people e-mail me to say, 'Wow, I've never heard anything like that before.' "
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon
Building on the exceptional interplay on 2008's Gridjam, the local trumpet mainstay achieves a nigh-on telepathic connection with her partners in early-out-jazz exploration.
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon
These four musicians know each other and their music so well it's as if they are always soloing, playing backgrounds and commenting on one another's playing. While most of seven tracks are in the free-jazz vein of Ornette Coleman, first tune "Cannonball Adderly's Tattoo" sounds straight out of the George Russell playbook. Trumpeter Allemano writes demanding tunes that require adherence to mood and structure, as well as attentive interplay, which she gets in spades from drummer Nick Fraser, who sometimes sounds like he's channelling Ed Blackwell: always a good thing. Alto saxophonist Brodie West's quizzical, dry, John Tchicai-ish sound, as on "Sling Slang," sounds like he's asking a question then answering it with his humorous, utterly personal style, which doesn't resort to cliche, an extraordinary accomplishment. Throughout the ensemble passages, bassist Andrew Downing is a model of muscular support. But he's so confident in his judgment he can stop playing entirely and his decision is felt as further accompaniment. Allemano's playing is confident, direct, expansive and angularly melodic throughout the set. The compositions range from playful to meditative to sweltering, all strong, well developed and realized. Catch this band live if you can.
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon
Toronto trumpeter Lina Allemano has a toothsome new album, Jargon (Lumo), that shows her of a like mind with [Chicago's Mike] Reed, Mingus, and, oh, Ornette Coleman. Think in particular of Mingus's great quartet with Eric Dolphy and Ted Curson when, it's said, he was trying to cop some of Ornette's magic. On the tune "Guadalajara," Allemano, alto-saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing, and drummer Nick Fraser combine compositional detail, melodic grace, spontaneous invention, and a kind of soft, burbling swing that's to die for.
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon
You can't miss the influence of Ornette Coleman's classic quartet on this sharp combo led by Toronto trumpeter Lina Allemano. On the group's excellent new album, Jargon (Lumo), the rapport Allemano and alto saxophonist Brodie West demonstrate with their simultaneous melodies recalls Ornette's connection to trumpeter Don Cherry, and the limber rhythm section–bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser–creates an elastic sense of time much like Charlie Haden did with Billy Higgins or Ed Blackwell. But Allemano also has her own thing going. The ensemble as a whole sounds more easygoing and organic than Coleman's band, and her appealingly loosey-goosey tunes, while full of angular contours and wide intervals–she and West use all the space these structures give them when they improvise, and their refined intuition yields knowing caresses as well as astringent harmonies–have less of a blues sensibility than Coleman's. On "Sling Slang" Fraser raises the temperature–suggesting acceleration without actually speeding up–but what I like most about the group is how effortless and relaxed its brilliant interplay usually feels. The players make great use of space, and their approach seems confident and measured compared to the meterless blowing sessions so common these days in music that leans toward free jazz–all of which makes it that much easier to savor Allemano and West's gorgeous lines.
Lina Allemano Four, Jargon
Lina Allemano is a Toronto-based trumpeter and Jargon is the third CD by her quartet, together since 2005 and including alto saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser. The instrumentation will immediately suggest a resemblance to the classic Ornette Coleman Quartet circa 1960, and true to that model there's an organic relationship between Allemano's compositions and the intuitive ways in which the group realizes them in performance. If the style is fundamentally free bop, Allemano places more than usual emphasis on slow to medium tempos. Her work is fundamentally introspective, and she finds her personal voice in the trumpet's middle register, making subtle displacements in space and line to create effective narratives that are intercut with telling shafts of sudden harsher sounds.
The group is distinguished by its level of empathy and the spirit of collective improvisation. Eschewing convention, collective dialogue isn't something that turns up before a final chorus: it's a virtual constant. Contrary to most trumpet/saxophone pairings, West supplies reflection rather than contrast. He's a melodic altoist with a keening sound and his staccato insertions under Allemano's brassier lines can function as a double, or the two can build toward a chattering full-on duet. While a listener may detect trumpet or saxophone functioning as lead voice, the other horn is almost always present, prodding, commenting or in full dialogue, both horns practicing a concentrated minimalism that builds directly off the compositions and the principle of exchange, like the fanfare-like phrases over a slow beat on "Wayne's Shorts." Downing moves fleetly and supportively through the dialogue, while Fraser is a drummer of exceptional acumen, consistently supplying rhythmic momentum and assiduous detail. In their collective focus, the group is definitely traveling the road less taken, revealing unusually nuanced terrain.
Dreams Are Reality for Allemano
The question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" will elicit many different answers over the course of a childhood. Dreams of becoming a doctor, sports hero, or ballet dancer can be fleeting, but nonetheless a part of the journey to self-discovery.
For trumpeter Lina Allemano of Local 149 (Toronto, ON), the journey was slightly less complex. Her musical training began at the age of four, with piano lessons, and she never turned back. "As a child, I only remember ever wanting to be a musician, nothing else. Even right from the start," remembers Allemano.
At age 10, Allemano didn't want to stay with the piano. But her father, a professional drummer at the time and an active amateur brass player, wisely took control of the situation. "My father said, 'Fine, as long as you take up another instrument'," she remembers.
Allemano took up the trumpet, using a horn passed down from her brother Luigi, and began taking lessons at age 12. With her father's encouragement, support, and enthusiasm, she became very active in the music community of her native Edmonton, Alberta. Right away, she entered competitions, played in various community and all-city bands, and even joined a Latin group that played clubs.
"I was underage at the time, so my father would come with me and stand at the door to make sure that everything was okay," remembers Allemano. "I got a taste for playing professionally early on. I thought it was fun, and knew that I wanted to continue with it, go to college for music, and pursue it wherever it took me."
Today, Allemano performs in many groups, including two of her own, Lina Allemano Four and "N", an improvising group that Lina describes as "subtle, minimalist, and highly experimental. "N" is more about sound and making music out of sound, rather than out of compositions or structure," explains Allemano.
Lina Allemano Four has released three CDs: Gridjam (2008), Pinkeye (2006), and Concentric (2003). Gridjam has received widespread praise, and Allemano is planning for her next CD. That new recording, tentatively titled Jargon, is planned for release in October and will be followed by a US tour.
"I'm actually quite excited about the new album," she says. "The new compositions I've written for this album are an evolution from Gridjam-they are even more open in terms of the arrangements and are designed to be fully developed by the band through the course of each performance."
In the new album, Allemano says there will be almost a 50/50 split in terms of composition and improvisation. "The compositions themselves are quite strong and intricate, but then we improvise around the written material in a rather organic way, as an ensemble, rather than following a more traditional jazz form. It's quite exciting-a lot of unexpected, beautiful musical adventures can happen!" she enthuses.
Although she started composing in college, Allemano focused more on playing than composing until roughly five years ago. "It became a bit of a decision to become a composer, to spend time at it, and embrace it. But I realized that I really did love writing and playing my own music," says Allemano.
She laughs, "The inspiration for a piece usually comes to me after I'm done writing, when I'm thinking about the title. After the fact, it sort of occurs to me that I may have been influenced by something, but at the time I didn't realize it."
When Allemano's not working with her own groups, she makes it a point to seek out collaborations with other musicians and has appeared on more than 30 recordings. "Being a band leader is great, but it's honestly expensive," she says. "I have to find funding for a lot of the studio work myself, so I do a lot of things on the side to help fund it, along with applying for grants, and other funding sources. I also have a lot of friends whose music I love to play, and I've played in big bands and all sorts of other jazz environments."
Allemano knows the music business can be difficult at times, but she loves her career. She'll never give up that childhood dream of being a musician. "In 20 years, I hope to still be making records, writing music, traveling, having my own groups, playing in other groups, and teaching lessons and clinics," she says. "I'm just going to go with the flow, and keep living the dream."
Lina Allemano Four, Gridjam
Four of Canada's best jazz players are heard here leaping nimbly between concise bop and free-flowing sonic adventure. The group plays with agility, momentum and empathy, balancing intelligence and virtuosity with humour and moments of tenderness. Lina has a strong group of supportive agitators, bringing vitality to a great set of tunes. Her solo trumpet track ("Also") is an intriguing addition to the disc.
Lina Allemano Four, Gridjam
On a pu voir la trompettiste canadienne Lina Allemano en avril dernier à la maison de la culture Frontenac avec le sextette de Marianne Trudel, mais c'est en juin 2008 qu'on l'a vue pour la dernière fois chez nous avec son quartette, à l'OFF Festival de Jazz. Ce troisième disque nous présente toujours la formation classique trompette-sax-contrebasse-batterie, mais dans un répertoire entièrement original (cinq pièces de la trompettiste, une du contrebassiste Andrew Downing et une du batteur Nick Fraser - étonnamment, un solo de trompette). L'ensemble est épuré au max, et le concentré musical est grandement appuyé par une production qui capte chaque détail, du bouillonnement des lèvres sur l'embouchure jusqu'au moindre frôlement de cymbale.
Lina Allemano Four, Gridjam
Sweet, but also short, Toronto trumpeter Lina Allemano's Gridjam displays an enticing emotional dichotomy between smeary, melancholic interludes and upbeat lyricism. Allemano's sunny side shines through, buoyed by the nimble, responsive drumming of Nick Fraser. Although the album title is a reference to fellow Canadian trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, Allemano works from a more abstract sonic palette. Only bassist Andrew Downing's "Recall" leads the quartet towards boppish territory, while Fraser's "Also" gives the leader a solo outing where she can exhibit her full range of overtones, burrs and rushing air.
Lina Allemano Four, Gridjam
It might seem a clichÃ© to credit every quartet that contains a trumpeter and alto saxophonist with inspiration by the groundbreaking Ornette Coleman Quartet of the late 1950s, but, fact of the matter is, musicians are still working out possibilities in melody, harmony, rhythm and group interplay that Coleman's group opened up. The playing on Gridjam is an extension of the approach taken by trumpeter Lina Allemano, alto saxophonist Brodie West and the rhythm section of bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser on their first album, Pinkeye. Here, the playing shows an even heightened level of responsiveness and group communication, building on the promise of a fine debut.
Lina Allemano Four, Gridjam
There's a reason Toronto-based trumpeter Lina Allemano has caught the attention of Downbeat reviewers in recent years. Her work is some of the most challenging and textured soundscapes in North American jazz circles. With the October 2008 release of Allemano's third CD, Gridjam, she again demonstrates how much can be achieved by the collaboration of musicians. There is a true synergy at work in this album, and, as a listener, you feel just how clearly these musicians understand and create from each other. Allemano's clear crisp horn work plays with dissonance, and spins off of inspired alto sax laid down by Brodie West. The drums and bass lace through all the tracks like a powerful undercurrent: Nick Fraser's drum work is strong and punctuating; Andrew Downing's bass anchors each creative direction. And that direction is obvious through tracks 1-7: a CD of quiet and consistent energy.
Lina Allemano Four, Gridjam
Perhaps the best thing about Lina Allemano's third album, Gridjam, is how quiet it seems. It's not laid back, like elevator jazz, or infused with the crepuscular hush of certain ECM piano trios; instead, the quiet her quartet conveys is the sound of four musicians listening to one another. Regardless of whether the playing is coolly contemplative (as on the title tune) or frenetically frenzied (as on Cameo), there's always plenty of room in the music, a dynamic that not only draws the listener in but allows trumpeter Allemano and her crew to take the music further out. A stellar (if too short) album.
Lina Allemano Four, Gridjam
(excerpt) Now here's a wholly captivating, unconventional recording that manages to push boundaries in an inviting way. In this minimalist chord-less setting, each player contributes enormously to the project's success. (Trumpeter) Allemano is an admirable, daring player. Armed with a richness of tone, she isn't afraid to squeal, squeak or growl according to the given moment; (saxophonist) West wails similarly, often with fiery pizzazz. The two complement each other so well that at times it is hard to tell them apart. (Drummer) Fraser's tasteful brushwork is also outstanding throughout the album. Gridjam, Cameo and Recall all contain moments of awe-inspiring interplay. Fascinating and full of the unexpected, this recording should win Lina Allemano Four scores of new fans.
Lina Allemano Four, Gridjam
Gridjam is another triumph for local jazz heroine Lina Allemano. Her trumpet and Brodie West's alto sax are a remarkable combination. Their tonal qualities and sense of dynamics are well-matched, which make their binary melodic statements simply enthralling. Their intertwining spontaneity extends to drummer Nick Fraser -- he is hands down the funkiest drummer in Toronto who's not playing funk. Fraser and the unifying bass presence of Andrew Downing have an authoritative swing much of the time, making the irregular and deceptively post-boppish statements of the title track and "Recall" flow effortlessly. Whether engaged in deeply pulsating grooves or introspective tone poems, Gridjam's sense of experimentation is supremely listenable.
They Don't Take Requests: Allemano Not A Karaoke Machine
Montreal's OFF Festival de Jazz offers welcome respite for players like Lina Allemano. "I'm booking this tour, and one presenter wanted to know what percentage of originals we play. We play all originals! 'And is there a singer?' And I'm like, 'Oh man...'" Lina Allemano's voice trails off. "It's nice to find people at the OFF Festival who actually want to hear original music, something that's different than the usual thing. Thank God." The Toronto-based trumpeter's sentiment expresses exactly why the OFF Festival de Jazz, now (amazingly) in its ninth edition, is important to jazz musicians and fans in this city, with its stated mandate to present original music by local musicians in settings most conducive to getting the music across.
The 34-year-old Allemano, born in Edmonton, is the type of musician who all too often falls under the radar because of our national inferiority complex. But her quartet, who play the beautiful and venerable Lion d'Or on June 16, make music that is every bit as interesting and unpredictable in its risk-taking as most of what comes out of the States. Besides that, she has received the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval from Downbeat as a talent to watch.
Lina Allemano Four, Pinkeye
Toronto trumpeter Lina Allemano's band invites easy comparisons with Ornette Coleman's classic quartet of the late 1950s. Both feature the superb interweaving of trumpet and alto sax on the frontline, and neither contains a piano or guitar. The similarities pretty much stop there.
Unlike Coleman's dedicated free jazz approach, Allemano and her terrific bandmates -- saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser -- move seamlessly back and forth between the mainstream and wide-open improvisation. They seem equally comfortable in both zones -- or both at once, as they show on Thelonious Monk's Evidence, or in their melancholy tribute to Joni Mitchell, OK Joni, tunes on which the musicians sound adventurous and restrained simultaneously.
Lina Allemano Four, Pinkeye
This lineup, notably missing a chordal instrument, immediately invites comparison to the early Ornette Coleman quartet, and the music here confirms that such comparisons are appropriate.
The playing and compositions on this disc reflect the influence of Coleman and trumpeter Don Cherry's groups. All four musicians play with a free, searching feeling -- they are clearly listening intently to each other and are open to exploring any melodic and harmonic paths, all the while keeping barely within then constraints of the tunes. This latter quality distinguishes the music from that of Coleman, for this group seeks to appropriate many of the elements of free-jazz while adhering more closely to the chords and structures of the compositions.
This approach works remarkably well on both the original compositions and the two other tracks, Monk's Evidence and My Man's Gone Now. All four musicians play with a more laid back style than many other free-jazz ensembles, even on the more frenetic pieces, such as Allemano's BLAN. Much of the work of implying harmony falls upon bassist Downing; his playing is rock solid and inventive. Nick Fraser is given ample opportunity to show off his skills as a rhythmic colorist, and Allemano and West work well together; tastefully harmonizing underneath each other's lines on occasion, and listening and playing off each other while soloing.
The high calibre of playing and unique musical approach makes this a thoroughly enjoyable and refreshing album.
25 For The Future: A New Generation of Trumpeters Pave the Way for Jazz's Next Innovations
Lina Allemano Not many Canadians consider living in Toronto a lifestyle decision that reflects a desire for quiet and space. But given the choice of Toronto or New York City, Lina Allemano is happy to opt for the relative calm of the former. The 33-year-old Alberta native said: "Hopefully, it's not too limiting. I find I can do lots here, but I also like the quiet down time."
A lyrical player whose careful sense of note placement reflects her early devotion to Miles Davis, Allemano was drawn to the trumpet by her older brother and amateur musician father. She was working in Edmonton by 15, and ready to take on the big city at 19. In Toronto, she has gravitated to genre-busting players like guitarist Tim Posgate, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser, as well as capturing the trumpet chair in bands like NOJO. Her quartet's latest recording, Pinkeye, slides fluidly between an homage to Joni Mitchell and Monk's "Evidence."
How to be down; Local trumpeter gets props from critics and players alike
Everybody digs Lina Allemano. The veteran trumpet player has been shuttling between the avant and mainstream ends of the jazz scene since she moved here from Edmonton in '93, when several of today's scene regulars were coming up.
Now they're getting their due, Allemano included. This month, she was named one of the "25 Trumpeters for the Future" by Down Beat, no doubt aided by fellow trumpeter Dave Douglas' support.
She has fans across the scene, even if they don't interact with each other.
"I'll do some work in, I'll call it the Tranzac scene," she explains, "and a lot of people there don't know the people that I play with, and vice versa when I play, say, the Rex."
Bassist Andrew Downing also travels freely across scene boundaries. He and Allemano were in the same combo at U of T together, and have played together on everything from straight post-bop to free jazz in groups such as Allemano's quartet, which also includes Drumheller's Brodie West (saxophone) and Nick Fraser (drums). Last year's Pinkeye saw them reaching into the unknown, from the title track's coolly melodious interaction between Allemano and West to the cartoonish lines zig-zagging, Raymond Scott Quintette-style, throughout the exuberant "BLAN." If you want to know where she's going next, look to the latter for a sign.
"The music I'm writing right now that we're going to be recording in the coming year is less structured," she says. "I'm getting more and more away from that. Not that I'm trying, it just seems to be what's happening."
Allemano never lapses into the garbled explanations that some players use to make themselves seem mysterious and elite.
"What we're doing is definitely not the free-est thing, but I've had tonnes of people come up to me after shows and say, 'You know, I don't even really like jazz and I'm definitely not into weird, out-there stuff, but I really loved what you guys are doing and I could connect with it; I really found it moving and genuine.' That really makes me happy, reaching out to people who aren't necessarily already fans of that music."
She's too modest to play up the accolade from Down Beat, but one person isn't.
"My dad has collected every issue of Down Beat since he was 16. So for him, this is pretty sweet."
Live Performance Review: Lina Allemano Four commands respect
On a miserable February evening, in celebration of a style that, in the words of Rodney Dangerfield, "don't get no respect," it was great to see a crowd of all ages gather at the Franco- Manitoba Cultural Centre to see the Lina Allemano Four. In a genre that is as much a social movement as an art, Allemano shows that she has the same ferocious appetite for jazz that has catapulted other jazz giants to greatness. It is no surprise that she won the CBC Galaxie Rising Star Award at the 2005 National Jazz Awards.
The quartet dove headfirst into Thelonius Monk's "Let's Call This," setting the tone for the evening. Without a guitar or piano to comp, Allemano on trumpet and alto saxophonist Brodie West took on the challenge. By playing long, sustained melodies in almost whispered tones, they added colour and texture to the tight rhythm section of bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser.
The group definitely had a vibe going on throughout the night, most notably in the interplay between Allemano and West. As Allemano would play a melody, West would subtly decorate the line, occasionally harmonizing the melody and always lagging a little behind her, giving the band a characteristic loose intensity. The whole quartet possesses enormous chops, yet they never felt the need to show off and only did when called for by the song.
The band's forte is, without a doubt, the coupling of their dynamics with unusual song structures. Not only were they able to crescendo to a cacophonous climax, but they could also come to a screeching halt. They would recommence ever so softly, making the horns sound like the static of an old jazz recording while simultaneously reinforcing many senior citizens' distrust of greedy hearing-aid corporations. They ventured fearlessly into these unconventional song structures, at times stepping into an eerie, subdued groove mid-song.
The avant-garde stylings of Ornette Coleman and Thelonius Monk were evident in the harmonic freedom of the musicians' solos. They even paid direct homage to these giants, playing a few of their songs, most notably Coleman's "Happy House." Every tune had amazing continuity. As one musician reached the end of a solo, the next musician would begin interrupting, initially with patience, then with a confidence that said "Shut up and pass the conch shell!"
The highlight of the evening was the closer of the first set - "Gridjam" - which was inspired by a trip to the Big Apple. It opened with a chaotic bass solo that pushed the limit of both technique and dissonance, fingers jumping all over the place and contorting into positions that looked downright unhealthy. Downing brought the audience into a crowded Manhattan street. The sax and trumpet joined in as the car horns of frustrated drivers and the drums became the construction site of The Donald's latest gold fortress development.
Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss" wrapped up the night, awarding the audience's musical intellect a break with a soft, short, melodic ending to a high-energy evening.
Lina Allemano Four, Pinkeye
If the sound of Toronto's Lina Allemano Four brings to mind the free-jazz quartet Old and New Dreams, it's not just because Allemano's tart, agile trumpet recalls the quicksilver sound of Don Cherry. Like Old and New Dreams, Allemano's group takes an approach based on Ornette Coleman's classic quartet, except that Allemano's crew work to balance the infinite possibilities of free improvisation with the structure and discipline of playing over changes. It's a daring twist that works brilliantly, whether in rambling originals like Tumbleweed or their eloquently abstracted take on My Man's Gone Now (from Porgy and Bess).
Lina Allemano Four, Pinkeye
The story of Lina Allemano's second album is the wonderful interweaving of Brodie West's sax and Allemano's trumpet. Allemano's cool reserve on her first disc has become more assertive on this effort. The leadoff title track has a wide open melody that recalls the better days of Charlie Haden's Quartet West. Things get spikier with "BLAN," the freest piece on the disc, where she reaches Bobby Bradford-like heights, thrusting and parrying with West's contributions. Often, bassist Andrew Downing acts as a harmonic referee setting the harmonic course with one note from his bass. There are very few true solos on this disc; it is structured freedom with riffs and a few changes giving shape to the proceedings. "Tumbleweed" is a great composition; it's evocative of its namesake, with a rolling rhythm that breaks into freedom at the four-minute mark but is always stitched together with melody. Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now" is an outstanding choice for a cover, as the melancholy (boy, can Allemano do melancholy...) melody is given major gravitas by all players. A tip of the hat to drummer Nick Fraser, who's adaptable to any situation, has an ear for melody and is also pretty damn funky when required.
Ingrid and Lina at Festival of New Trumpet Music
What can I say? The music in FONT this week has been such a blast, everyone creating a new take on their music, trumpet music, and music in general. It's been a thrill to see and hear.
Lina Allemano came in from Toronto especially for this event. Lina is a great composer and trumpeter who I originally met at Banff some years ago. She brought a few of her pieces to the stage and I found myself humming one called Concentric after the show. Very tuneful, and she really puts the trumpet right in the sweet spot of the song. Canadians can catch her on tour next month. Maybe us southerners next year?
Ingrid Jensen, also originally from Canada, did something I hadn't heard her do before. She was really powerfully able to switch between acoustic trumpet and electrified, processed tones. Another Woody Shaw freak (like me and K-Lassik, among others), she played the fierce chromatic lines and tension filled rhythms of contemporary jazz, but the electronics flipped the music over into another dimension. It didn't seem forced or artificial at all and added a significant new facet to her strong playing.
The most impressive thing about the gig was the way the two trumpets were integrated into the music, the two voices creating all the harmonic framework and song forms necessary.
Lina Allemano Four, Pinkeye
Lina Allemano Four Pinkeye is in the top 10 Jazz CDs for 2006.
The subtle Toronto-based trumpeter shows in her impressive sophomore album that as a band leader she can forge compelling ideas, seriously appealing tones and extended lyrical journeys while moving between mainstream and outside modes. Her young band, with alto saxist Brodie West (currently in Amsterdam), bass Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser, revels in interactive challenges and winding up sophisticated tension in ways mindful of the quicksilver movement and huge imagination of early Ornette Coleman and Kenny Wheeler. "Tumbleweed" is a fine example of intricate four-way playing, "Blan" has bluster, and the melancholy threads of "OK Joni" illustrate the collective's consistent ability to sound adventurous and restrained simultaneously. There's a delicious quirky take on Thelonious Monk's already quirky "Evidence," one of only two standards accompanying Allemano's five originals. The album will be released Nov. 7 at the Tranzac club after an 11-stop western Canadian tour.
Lina Allemano Four, Pinkeye
The ensemble is a bit unusual, as jazz quartets go, with bass, drums and two horns. With no piano or guitar, the harmonic structure of this material comes only from the bass and the two horns. This puts a lot more responsibility on all three of these players - but also affords a lot more space for purely melodic or more strongly rhythmically inspired improvisation. Allemano's playing [on trumpet] is vocally expressive. She carves her lines with the sensibility of an Ella or a Carmen, and finesses her expressive sound in a way more typical of a saxophonist than a trumpet player. She massages the pitch, but is always in tune. She possesses technique and the power associated with a trumpet, but chooses to use her instrument in a more gentle and probing manner.
Five of the seven tunes on this 2006 release are Allemano originals. The remaining two tunes are Evidence by Thelonious Monk, and My Man's Gone Now by George Gershwin. The mood and tempo of these tunes is all over the map, from helter-skelter up-tempo to mournful and contemplative. The improvisational role circulates pretty freely amongst the four players, with the two horn players often winding around one another like two people engaged in an interesting conversation. Downing [bass] and Fraser [drums] keep things rhythmically on track and grounded to the earth, allowing the horn players the freedom they obviously enjoy in this setting. There is a lot of interaction, and without knowing the group better, it is difficult to say what is written material and what is improvised. The feel of the entire CD is of an improvisational outing.
Trumpeter happily off in all directions -
Lina Allemano loves letting the music go where it will
As jazz musicians mature, they're more likely to explore the unknown. Trumpeter Lina Allemano seems headed in that direction with her second and newest CD, Pinkeye. After three years together, the Edmonton-raised horn player and her quartet have loosened up the arrangements to tap their capacity for interaction. The quartet has no chording instruments like piano or guitar, which tends to open up space in a fashion akin to Ornette Coleman's classic '60s quartets. Joining Allemano are Brodie West on alto sax, bassist Andrew Downing and drummer Nick Fraser.
"It's a bit more free and opened up," offers Allemano, who's now based in Toronto. "With that, there's the possibility of letting things go where they want to and letting the guys stretch out."
This is not to suggest the album isn't tuneful. It is, but tracks like the spare covers of Thelonious Monk's Evidence or George Gershwin's My Man's Gone Now push you to listen for the basic musical elements in space and the interactive connections between the players.
Allemano says listening to each other has become very important. "That's what this group is all about. They're all amazing listeners and that's what you need if you're doing a more open thing, being spontaneous, and cohesive and interactive. It takes an enormous amount of concentration and energy. I don't really want to hear them playing the same thing every night. I want to hear them taking risks, and hopefully the audience comes along for the ride. We like to have fun with things."
Lina Allemano loves her chordless freedom
Less is more for Toronto trumpeter Lina Allemano: after fronting bands that have been tied to the sound of the piano or the guitar, she's going chordless with her new quartet. And the results, as documented on her Pinkeye CD, suggest that she might just be onto something.
"It's really fun to have all that space," she says of her working unit, which also includes saxophonist Brodie West, bassist Andrew Downing, and drummer Nick Fraser. "And the tunes I write are pretty simple, harmonically, so the new lineup sort of lends itself to that. If the tunes were more harmonically dense, they might not work as well in this format."
What that means for the casual listener is that Allemano's compositions rely more on melody than on complex structures. The Edmonton-born musician has always been a lyrical player, but that singing quality is more apparent than ever on her new material - and that's especially true of Pinkeye's tribute to a Canadian icon [Joni Mitchell], 'OK Joni'.
Pinkeye also boasts inventive versions of Thelonious Monk's 'Evidence' and George Gershwin's 'My Man's Gone Now', so it's clear that Allemano is not only inspired by confessional songwriters with Canadian roots. In fact, her post-bop chops have served her well in the Toronto jazz scene, which can safely be characterized as a little more conservative than Vancouver's.
Things might be changing, however. As Allemano tells it, her adopted home town is beginning to generate a community of underground musicians with a fresh take on the art of improvisation - and she's in the middle of that, too. "There's this whole other scene that doesn't get much attention, but it's pretty happening," she reports. "People are playing really incredible, creative, bizarre music. I'm getting more and more involved in that, which is kind of weird; I feel like I'm living in these two parallel worlds. But it's great. I totally thrive on it."
Lina Allemano Four, Concentric
Her voice on trumpet is delightfully simple. She rarely dazzles, and to the extent that her sound is influenced, it is Chet Baker or early Miles Davis that make their mark. Lina Allemano plays gracefully, sticking almost exclusively to the middle and lower ranges of the horn, her tone fat as the dew on an early Spring morning. Her backing is minimal, highlighting her sound, though the rhythm section is clearly first-rate. Led by coproducer/ guitarist David Occhipinti, and joined by Andrew Downing on bass and Anthony Mitchell on drums, the trio swings gently, and prods Allemano when necessary. Occhipinti solos regularly, his horn-like phrasing relaxed and co-oo-ol. Allemano wrote most of the tunes, and for the most part they are not only lyrical but they stick in the craw: simple yet catchy, and the kind you find yourself humming subconsciously. On trumpet, she favors simple phrasing, usually performed softly, her attack often pleasantly unfocused. She is not afraid to try to extend her reach, either through runs of sixteenth notes or an occasional high note, both of which she pursues on "Rundle," but it is the quaint primitive results that impress the most. Imbued with style, she shows no need to prove anything. The arrangements are tight, too, as she eschews a simple head-solos-head structure on every piece. For example, the slow and mournful "Ok Joni" opens with guitar which is quickly joined by electric bass before the trumpet joins in, after which the electric guitar weaves in and out and the drums add color. After Allemano completes a solo, Occhipinti picks up her final phrase and adds a few bars before the trumpeter comes back, this time with the full backing of the band. It is all very European, and even quaint, a throwback to the 1950s except that the sound quality is so clear and the harmonies are more complex. Here is an album and an artist each of which might easily be overlooked; they sneak up on you and it is only at the end that you realize how delicate and special it all is.
Lina Allemano Four, Concentric
Home to Maynard Ferguson, Kenny Wheeler, Herbie Spanier and Ingrid Jensen, Canada has produced more than its share of distinctive trumpeters. Alberta native Lina Allemano fits comfortably into that lineage, and both she and her bandmates are testimony to the pervasive influence Wheeler has among young players in his native land.
Like Wheeler, Allemano has a very intimate yet somewhat guarded sound, but while Wheeler is a wounded romantic, Allemano comes across more as a slightly shy eccentric. She always seems to be holding something back, and the many twists in her solos keep her just out of reach. It's an alluring persona, and one that invites you to explore the mystery in her sound. Her tone itself is tart and slightly grainy, with both qualities accentuated by the unadorned sound of the recording. Her compositions, too, are inviting and intimate, which makes sense when you see the allusion to Joni Mitchell. Allemano is clearly influenced by the songwriter's fusion of sweet melodies and thorny harmony, and guitarist David Occhipinti, who contributes two compositions of his own, is an excellent match for delving into the compositional possibilities. The rhythm team of Andrew Downing and Anthony Michelli do fine work in sustaining tension.
While introspection abounds on "Rundle", the title track and the Mitchell-inspired "OK Joni", there's a distinct lack of passion and fire on the opposite side of the fulcrum. The scratchy percussion and almost-rocking rhythm of "Vesper" and the banter between trumpet and guitar on "And", the only piece that comes close to swinging, introduce some variety; otherwise head definitely overwhelms heart.
- James Hale
Lina Allemano Four, Concentric
This is the debut release by Lina Allemano, one of Toronto's foremost trumpeters. The band under her leadership has been together for three years, and the cohesiveness shows in interpreting Allemano's complex and interesting tunes. Each member adds little personal touches. Guitarist David Occhipinti has an understated tone throughout, though he finds many ways to introduce texture and tension into his parts. Drummer Anthony Michelli plays with variety, from the metallic clatter-funk of the title track to the barely-brushed intro to "OK Joni." On bass, Andrew Downing is both timekeeper and a lower counterpoint to Occhipinti. If anything, it's Allemano who doesn't take liberties with her own compositions. She has a great tone throughout, her playing is very lyrical and precise but not overly dynamic or texturally varied - it's more straight ahead than her work with Jazzstory or the Rob Clutton band. The best pieces are those in which she cuts loose the most: "Dreams"' slow pace shows her exploring dynamics and tone and "Prairie," with its cool autopanned guitar, showcases wide open soloing appropriate to its title. The best tune to showcase the kind of vibe Allemano has lent to other projects is the closer "West Side BBQ," which dabbles in free time between melodic statements and shows what she can do with a burnished tone and floating lyrical passages on top of Concentric's fiercest rhythms. The tunes are the highlight of this disc, and are bound to take on even more personality live.
- David Dacks