Montreal-based multi-reedist Beth McKenna's Beyond Here proves a few things. One, she is a fine arranger of her original compositions for her jazz quintet. Two: she writes. complex-yet-engaging tunes that often go after the groove. And three: there is an expansivenesscompositionally and production-wisein her music that could probably transfer nicely to larger ensemble work. She studied with one of Canada's finest big band leaders, Christine Jensen, so some of this probably comes from that direction.
Like many artists, McKenna soaks up the world around her: "Individuals, actions and ideas that radiate out and change the world far beyond what it is directly in front of us," she says in her liner notes. In doing so she has created a suite-like sixty-five minutes worth of music, from the dreamy opener, the modernistic "Into: Beyond Here," featuring the leader's sweet sounding soprano saxophone (shades of Wayne Shorter), to "Perspective," a jazzier sound with McKenna's robust tenor sax out front.
"Street Of Mexico City" glows with life, and hereand across much of the discthe quintet's guitarist, Francois Jalbert, adds sweeping, subtle effects that elevate the music beautifully. And throw inon this particular cuta rollicking piano solo by Guillaume Martineau, before night falls on those streets and McKenna's muscular saxophone moves in out of the shadows, alongside some fervent vocalese from guest Sarah Rossy that enlivens the mix.
"Tides" sounds as if it is flowing in from a surreal dimension, and "Ele(ctro)phante," the set's closer, has a Sly and the Family Stone meets Jimi Hendrix funk vibe, moving off a bit from the suite-like mood of the first thirteen tracks, in the most stimulating, dance-inducing way.
Intro: Beyond Here; Perspectives; Interlude: Not Alone; Streets Of Mexico City; Interlude: Finding A Place; Far
From Familiar Ground; McKennaTides; Divided To One; Interlude: Indifference; Letting Go; Interlude: Human
Malfunction; Running Out; After The Storm; Ele(tro)phant.