Pipe Dream, the upcoming new album from the Lina Allemano Four, gets going in earnest toward the end of its first track, Banana Canon. Trumpet player and leader Allemano duels with saxophonist Brodie West, trading gritty overlapping solos. The contributions of each of these two would be compelling enough on their own, but the way that they combine contrapuntally is just sublime. Bandmates Nick Fraser on drums and Andrew Downing on double bass provide a rolling landscape for these explorations.
Never one to stick to too much structure or rely on all-out free improv, Allemano once again proves herself a cerebral composer and deft performer as this longstanding quartet works its way through her material. They are more of an avant chamber jazz group than anything else, eschewing simple grooves and vamps for music of a much more challenging character.
Indeed, the structural aspects of Pipe Dream are some of the most orchestral heard from Allemano yet. She asks a lot from this relatively small outfit but they are more than suited to meet her requirements. Case in point, West and Allemano trade high-low patterns on Dragon Fruit while the rhythm section employs a pulse track that is broken up by Fraser’s busy percussion. The feel is unconventional and perhaps even a bit uncomfortable while retaining musicality. A long, quiet passage stops short of being ambient and instead features oscillations, a few non-repeating themes, and a patch of discordance.
The second half of the album is a four-track suite, each of which have distinct introductory solos from Allemano, West, Downing, and then Fraser, respectively. One can easily imagine the playful and complex lines of Longing being performed by a string quartet. West and Allemano once again collaborate with loosely-coupled melodies. Trying Not to Freak Out contrasts more structured passages that build tension with a few that are blasts of open-ended, angular energy (the freak-outs, I presume). Hunger and Murder takes on a darker tone that is apropos of its title. It is slow and moody, with drones from Allemano and Downing as well as more overt activity from West and Fraser. All of this leads to a mournful bass pattern over which the group makes skittering and chaotic breaks. Doom and Doomer caps things off with another high-low motif from West, Allemano, and Downing that eventually turns into a repeated staccato pattern. The track progresses with an ominously bouncing bass line supporting more joint soloing from Allemano and West.
Pipe Dream will be released on May 5 by Lumo Records. This lineup has been together for 18 years, putting out 7 albums. They continue to grow and evolve on each one, this being no exception. An excellent release.
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