The trumpet is making a comeback as a lead instrument of choice in left-of-center music. Wadada Leo Smith, Nate Wooley, Daniel Rosenboom, Jaimie Branch, Stephen Haynes, and many others have released excellent material over the last decade, if not in the last several months. Canadian Lina Allemano is no newcomer – she has quietly put out a cadre of recordings going back 15 years. With Sometimes Y coming out next month as one half of a two-CD release respectively featuring each of Allemano’s bands, you can expect her profile to increase. Simply put, the music is just that good.
The Lina Allemano Four has its origins in the early 2000’s and has had a static lineup for over 10 years. Joining Allemano is Brodie West on alto sax, Andrew Downing on bass, and Nick Fraser on drums. Sometimes Y is a cohesive and well-organized romp through disjointed timings, shifting rhythms, and scattershot themes. They come together and pull apart, generating an unpredictable tension. Still, the group manages to pull off flurries of free improvisation without sounding overtly outside.
Of particular note is the interplay between Allemano and West, consisting of staccato pulses, atmospheric harmonies, and distorted but airy phrasings. Their elastic cohesion stretches between tightly-played leads to disparate individual warblings. Downing provides a bed of sound rather than rhythm per se, employing both bowed and picked playing. Fraser’s work is similarly understated and frequently devoid of a traditional beat.
Perhaps because they have been together so long, this quartet has an exquisite feel for space and timing. They don’t need to play loudly or rapidly to grab the listener’s attention. The downtempo pieces are overflowing with ideas, flourishes, and unusual directions. Sometimes Y is a stellar effort – there is much to like here no matter where one falls on the jazz / creative music spectrum.