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 harmonise 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 doppelgänger 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.
Tracks: Flummox; Atomic Number 22; Tiger Swallowtail; Jack; Hush; Spin; Middle Finger.
Personnel: Lina Allemano: trumpet; Brodie West: alto saxophone; Andrew Downing: double bass; Nick Fraser: drums.
Lina Allemano on the Web: linaallemano.com
Label: Lumo Records | Release date: November 2012
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama
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