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CODE Quartet: Genealogy

Friedrich Kunzmann BY

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CODE Quartet: Genealogy
Chordless or not, quartets tend to find a way around the necessity of vertical simultaneousness to create significant harmonies. With the Montreal-based Code Quartet it's the former variety of instrumentation, combining a vital rhythm section of drum and bass with two horns, much like Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking quartet or its logical continuation in the group Old and New Dreams. The music of Genealogy, made up almost exclusively of originals—hold the traditional "O Sacred head, Now Wounded," harmonized by Johann Sebastian Bach—the program proves an engaging set of post-bop mixed with more open-structured forms of improvisation and group interaction.

Proficient contributors to the current Canadian jazz scene, bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Jim Doxas have developed into a fixed pairing who also indulge their teamwork on Doxa's 2019 leader outing Homebound (Self Produced). Here, their lively but firm interaction serves as the foundation for trumpeter Lex French and saxophonist Christine Jensen's mostly complementing elaborations that soar in harmony rather than antagonism. Where Jensen's arguably more renowned older sister Ingrid's trumpet playing has gained wide recognition through leader recordings on German labels ACT, Enja and more recently on the British label Whirlwind Recordings, the younger saxophonist sister tends to shine more humbly in the background and contributes the two standout compositions "Wind Up"—not to be confused with Keith Jarrett's seminal '70s composition (which Jensen's sheet has little in common with)—and the hard-bopping "Day Moon" to this project. Although it could be argued that her dashing solo on the latter track has very little to do with humility at all.

The music on Genealogy seems to spill out of the musicians with ease as the four joyfully join forces in the jolly, old-school walking- bass exercise "Tipsy." It's a simple composition constructed around an all-familiar head, but the band's execution turns it into a satisfying display regardless. Other bones on the album have notably more meat on them. The Vedady-penned "Watching it All Slip Away" is one highlight of the record and turns the spotlight to French's superb trumpet playing in an engaging composition that shuffles rhythm and harmony according to the group's inner pulse. Which wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the vibrant drum and bass interplay, skillfully adapting to the horns as they freely digress.

It is hard to read the album title Genealogy without being reminded of the Charlie Parker standard "Ornithology." At the same time, Ralph Peterson's celebrated album Ornettology (Somethin' Else, 1990) comes to mind, due to the influential musician to whom the music on it pays homage. The same could be said for this album. While a certain Parker-immediacy is notable straight after the first few bars of Geneaology's title track, the band's flamboyant continuation is reminiscent of Ornette Coleman. After all, whatever rules in jazz the Parker hadn't broken, Coleman eventually did. Both are all over the fierce explosion of turnarounds, fanfare and subsequently rushing swing that make "Genealogy" the album's wildest ride, closely followed by "Day Moon."

Finally, contemplative and patient lyricism can be found on "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" as well as "Requiem." Both cuts demonstrate the group interplay at its most percussive. Overblown trumpet twitching is followed by rapid bop lines while Jensen's alto squeaks and cries in meditation on a dark but beguiling mass for the dead. Talking about liturgical music—Bach was one of its pioneers, having composed countless chorales whose melodies continue to ring through any style of music today. "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" belongs to those evergreens and sees Code Quartet at their most gentle. There's nothing quite like two horns and bass playing a church melody of fourths in unison on a jazz recording. And yet, jazz it is.

Track Listing

Tipsy; Watching It All Slip Away; Genealogy; O Sacred Head, Now Wounded; Wind Up; Requiem; Day Moon; Beach Community.

Personnel

CODE Quartet: band/orchestra; Adrian Vedady: bass; Christine Jensen: saxophone; Lex French: trumpet; Jim Doxas: drums.

Album information

Title: Genealogy | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Justin Time Records

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