Celebrated Canadian progressive jazz clarinetist Francois Houle enlists an all-star support system for a comprehensive album that radiates numerous slants amid ethereal backwashes, scrappy improvisation and softly explorative passages. "Albatros" highlights the sextet's manifold capabilities. Propagated by Houle's buoyantly lilting stride, the band generates a deceptively complex primary theme based on odd-metered unison phrasings, spanning free-bop undertones and pianist Benoit Delbecq's ephemeral classical fills.
"Albatros" serves as a solid vehicle for the band to stretch during the bridge, featuring cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum's brash, fluent, and rather dizzying solo, tempered by trombonist Samuel Blaser's longing lines. It's an emotionally intense composition, where angst and whimsy serve as contrasting factors within an ultra-modern bop groove, layered with Houle's melodically whirling choruses. Otherwise, the ensemble revisits the odd-metered primary theme for the coda, signaling a fractured storyline that offers a dissimilar reckoning of human sentiment. And while they get down and dirty during the midsection, Houle and associates finalize the proceedings on a lighthearted note.
Personnel: Francois Houle: clarinet; Michael Bates: bass; Samuel Blaser: trombone; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn; Benoit Delbecq: piano, electronics.