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Allison Au: Forest Grove

Dan McClenaghan By

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The best artists—writers, painters, musicians—create distinct  new worlds. Canada's Allison Au has done just that with her Juno-Award-winning  (2016, Jazz Album of the Year) recording,  Forest Grove. The music therein is Au's personal  vision transformed into a set of sounds with a continuity of purpose. A rarity for a young artist.

Au says she was attracted to what she refers to as the simplicity of the jazz quartet as a vehicle for realizing the vision of her original compositions, the oft-used format of her fellow altoists Charlie Parker, Lee Konitz, and Art Pepper. If fact, the opening cut of  Forest Grove, "Tides," sounds, melodically, like something Charlie Parker might have written, or played.

Au's pen is a strong one. The compositional aspect of the disc stands out—a crafting of, in part, pastoral atmospheres and nostalgic reveries bumping up against boppish grooves. "Aureole" rolls in an up-tempo modern jazz mode. Keyboardist Todd Pentney proves himself a major force here, and throughout, mixing up his piano contributions with the B3 organ, Rhodes, Wurlitzer and synths, adding different hues to the full and beautiful sounds. "Deluge" is a jazz march, Au's alto issuing anguished cries. "Tumble" is pensive, the simple arrangement showcasing Au's horn as it tells ai perhaps melancholy story.

Three tunes include the understated wordless vocals of Felicity WIlliams, a shadowing of Au's alto, adding a gorgeous harmonic layering to the sound, nudging it in the direction of the orchestral.

A fine, alluring and deservedly award-winning effort that points to a bright future for Allison Au.

Track Listing: Tides; Bolero; Aureole; The Clearing; Deluge; Through Light; Tumble; You Ordinary Stranger; They Say We Are Not Here.

Personnel: Allison Au: alto saxophone; Todd Pentney; piano, Hammond B3, Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, synthesizers; Jon Maharaj: bass, electric bass; Fabio Ragnelli: drums, percussion, Felicity Williams: vocals (2, 4, 9).

Title: Forest Grove | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced

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