All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


The Ratchet Orchestra: Hemlock

Ted Harms By

Sign in to view read count
Wikipedia defines a ratchet as a mechanical device that allows for motion in only one direction; it also could be a piss-take or deliberate mispronunciation of "rat shit." Certainly the former is more appropriate for The Ratchet Orchestra's Hemlock, from a very large ensemble led by bassist/composer Nicolas Caloia. This group of 30 players is primarily drawn from the huge pool of improvisers based in Montreal, Canada, and the sound, thankfully, isn't just everybody playing all at once— though there are some moments of that, too. The group started off as a quintet, but the follow-up was this large ensemble performing a 2007 tribute to keyboardist Sun Ra with the great Live at The Sala Rossa (Actuelle, 2007). Hemlock is a strong recording with good tunes; what helps is that the audio is top-notch—all the instruments are clear and there's no sonic mud to cloud the waters.

Two YouTube videos show the recording process of "Kick" and the title tune, and the vibe that comes from everybody being in the same room at the same time is apparent. It's a dilemma, no doubt, to determine how to evenly share the load and give everybody a chance to shine. While there are no consistently featured players, the division of labor is balanced and intricate, showing that Caloia has a firm grasp on getting the best out of his players.

What was expected from a bassist-led large ensemble was typical big band, and while there's much of that, what is particularly enticing are the occasional sounds from fusion- era big bands such as bassist Jaco Pastorius' Word of Mouth—high- pitched woodwind ornamentation, strings, electric piano-type sounds—on "Willow" and "Wish pt.2." "Dusty" provides the best example of "motion in one direction," driven by a plinking rhythm with a quirky and fuzzed guitar solo adding the cherry on a great song. "Safety" provides a nice contrast by starting off with a slow tempo that picks up, but unfortunately gets a little ponderous in the middle. "Hemlock, pt.1" and "Hemlock, pt.2" creatre a great closer—"pt.1" opening with staccato notes pitting against levels of shifting tones, while in "pt. 2," things get noisy and tumultuous.

Track Listing: Winnow; Dusty; Yield; Wish pt.1; Wish pt.2; Kick; Safety; Hemlock pt. 1; Hemlock pt. 2.

Personnel: Gordon Allen: trumpet; Phil Battikha: trumpet; Michel Bonneau: congas; Chris Burns: guitar; Nicolas Caloia: bass; Cristopher Cauley: soprano saxophone; Isaiah Ceccarelli: drums; Noah Countability: sousaphone; Brigitte Dajczer: violin; Guido Del Fabbro: violin; Jean Derome: flute, Bass flute, piccolo; Craig Dionne: flute; Ken Doolittle: percussion; Guillaume Dostaler: piano; Lori Freedman: clarinet; Gen Heistek: viola; Jacques Gravel: trombone; John Heward: drums; Norsola Johnson: cello; Gordon Krieger: bass clarinet; Eric Lewis: euphonium; Damian Nisenson: tenor saxophone; Thea Pratt: e-flat horn; Jean René: viola; Gabriel Rivest: Tuba; Louisa Sage: alto saxophone; Sam Shalabi: guitar; Jason Sharp: bass saxophone; Scott Thomson: trombone; Tom Walsh: trombone; Josh Zubot: violin.

Title: Hemlock | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Drip Audio


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Lala Belu CD/LP/Track Review
Lala Belu
by Chris May
Published: March 23, 2018
Read All Melody CD/LP/Track Review
All Melody
by Phil Barnes
Published: March 23, 2018
Read The Future is Female CD/LP/Track Review
The Future is Female
by Paul Rauch
Published: March 23, 2018
Read Hunters & Scavengers CD/LP/Track Review
Hunters & Scavengers
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 23, 2018
Read Fill Up Your Lungs and Bellow CD/LP/Track Review
Fill Up Your Lungs and Bellow
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 22, 2018
Read Transatlantic CD/LP/Track Review
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 22, 2018
Read "It Will Come" CD/LP/Track Review It Will Come
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "Beyond the Moon" CD/LP/Track Review Beyond the Moon
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 12, 2017
Read "Live in New York, 2010" CD/LP/Track Review Live in New York, 2010
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 31, 2017
Read "Soul Trio" CD/LP/Track Review Soul Trio
by Anthony Shaw
Published: August 24, 2017
Read "Bismuth" CD/LP/Track Review Bismuth
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 29, 2017
Read "Live At The Cota Jazz Festival" CD/LP/Track Review Live At The Cota Jazz Festival
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 11, 2017