Tim Posgate is a Canadian guitarist who has demonstrated the kind of diverse idiosyncratic mindset in the past ten years that places him in the same musical vicinity as Bill Frisell. His latest release, Tim Posgate Hornband Featuring Howard Johnson
, draws an even more visible link, with clear stylistic reference to Frisell's mid-'90s quartet with trumpeter Ron Miles, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, and violinist Eyvind Kang. Posgate's group operates with a similar premisesteadfastly eschewing a more traditional rhythm section, but still managing to develop all the forward motion it needs, and creating a broader textural swath at the same time. But there are clear differences as well.
Posgate's Hornbandfeaturing trumpeter Lina Allemano, woodwind multi-instrumentalist Quinsin Nachoff, and special guest Howard Johnson on tuba, baritone saxophone, and pennywhistleis certainly unconventional, and it places more consistent responsibility on its members. Frisell's quartet would often find different members taking on rhythm section roles at various times; Johnson's tuba and baritone saxophone, while certainly getting the opportunity to come forward, are more likely to be found anchoring the bass and rhythm rolesalthough Posgate himself is equally likely to be found in an accompanying position.
The disc covers a lot of territory. The material ranges from the eccentrically funky "Hale Bopp, where Posgate's gritty guitar tone seems at odds with the lush sound of the hornsor does it?to "Quartier St. Roche, which, with Posgate's indefinably Canadian folk alternative to Frisell's Americana penchant, gives the piece a similar but distinct complexion. Posgate's writing often allows for mood shifts within the same piece"Quartier St. Roche may start out with a loping folk rhythm, but by its end it has become more open-ended and considerably darker.
There's room for spirited improvisation from everyone, and this is an album that, above all, sounds like it was a whole lot of fun to make, despite its stylistic diversity. But Posgate's well-crafted arrangements give the album its personality. And yet, for all the careful construction, there's a relaxed feel that allows everyone the chance to be more liberally interpretive. This may be Posgate's session, and Howard Johnson, being the most well-known of the bunch, gets special mention on the marquee. But this is truly an equal opportunity band, with Allemano and Nachoff just as vital to its collective sound.
Magically, the group manages to imply all kinds of things that aren't actually there. Posgate's acoustic guitar riff propels "Muddy along, with the horns finding ways to occupy solo space and provide accompaniment simultaneously. And that's really the beauty of the recording. As quirky as it can sometimes getand tracks like "Pramulating move into more oblique free territorythe album remains thoroughly engaging throughout. Posgate is taking the Hornband, including Johnson, on a short road trip this summer, and it's sure to be an even more entertaining experience live than on record.
Personnel: Lina Allemano (trumpet); Howard Johnson (tuba, baritone saxophone, pennywhistle); Quinsin Nachoff (tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute); Tim Posgate (electric & acoustic guitar, banjo, acoustic lap slide)