Monday, December 22, 2014

Allison Au Quartet, The Sky was Pale Blue, Then Grey

From Canada comes the Allison Au Quartet and their The Sky was Pale Blue, Then Grey (self-release). I don't know a great deal about the artists here. A few listens, though, and you know you are in the presence of thoughtful and expressively accomplished players. And the compositions, by Allison Au with one co-written by pianist Todd Pentney, have a contemporary freshness that frames everything well.

The band features Allison on alto sax. She stands out as a player with an alternatingly pure and hard-toned strength, facility and imagination. Pentney is on piano and keys and gives the band a second solo voice of distinction. Then there is the rhythm section of Jonathan Maharaj on bass and Fabio Ragnelli on drums, players with contemporary looseness but continuously vibrant pulsation.

The music is evolved contemporary, the pulses rocking ahead with jazz-rock-funk-swing and Latin feels but at the same time involved compositional intricacies and straight-to-your-being blowing which has smarts and feeling.

It is, if you want forebears, a sort of extension of ECM middle-period acoustic jazz-rock and maybe Gary-Burtonian involved lines, but then not quite and it is renewed by Allison's good sense both at the pen and at the alto.

She is a player very well showcased here in ways that bring pleasure and good sounds to your ears with consistency.


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