Its liner notes, song titles, and cover art liberally peppered with references to Japanese culture and Zen Buddhism, Andrew McAnsh
's debut recording, Illustrations
was inspired by the young trumpeter / composer's journeys through the Land of the Rising Sun. However, McAnsh's original compositionsfar from displaying any direct influences of Japanese ethnic musicare relentlessly hard-hitting modern jazz inventions along the lines of recent offerings by fellow trumpeters John Blevins
and Ron Miles
and Dave Douglas
. Like Blevins, McAnsh works with a large-ish ensemble sporting a beefy front line of trumpet, trombone, tenor saxophone andon several pieces wordless vocals. Resolutely acoustic and infused with challenging cutting-edge modern jazz moves, Illustrations
eschews the big band jazz-funk sound of similarly-outfitted youthful collectives such as Snarky Puppy
. While there's not much in the way of funky fusion on Illustrations
, there's absolutely no shortage of energy or invention and only an occasional coup de chapeau
to more traditional Blue Note-affiliated sorts of sounds.
Ostensibly a student ensemble based at Toronto's Humber College, McAnsh's backing band provides remarkably fluid and mature accompaniment. There's none of that stilted feel one often perceives when less-experienced musicians are sight-reading complex scores. McAnsh and his band completely own
his rather complicated, consistently forward-leaning music. Solo opportunities aren't wasted either. Though McAnsh is an engaging and resourceful improviser somewhat in the mold of Kenny Wheeler
, pianist Chris Pruden
's virtuosic solos on "4 for 5," "Osaka," and "Nara, part 2" and guitarist Geoff Young
's shape shifting forays on "Utopia, part 2" and "Osaka" merit special mention. Saxophonist Jeff LaRochelle
has a nice, fat bull tenor sound à la Michael Brecker
, and Ian Wright
's dynamic, somewhat pushy, drumming keeps the energy level high throughout.
Three of McAnsh's pieces"Utopia," "Illustrations," and "Nara"are prefaced by brief rubato preludes which explore similar harmonic territories as do the ensuing "Part 2" sections. This serves Illustrations
quite nicely, providing contrast and breathing space to music otherwise dominated by high-energy, up-tempo, odd-metered charts and acrobatic soloing. The inclusion of a female voice on several of these pieces also gives McAnsh's music an unexpected depth and dimension. The way the horns make room for Mjaa Danielson
's warm alto on both parts of "Utopia" and Mara Nasrallah
's somewhat more delicate soprano on "Confabulation" and "Nara" really give the music a lighter, airy feel. Nasrallah's spoken word on "Confabulation," however, feels a little forced. Illustrations
is yet another in a hopefully endless parade of recordings by young Canadian jazz artists such as Allison Au
, Peter Van Huffel
, Peripheral Vision
whose surprisingly mature vision filters well-grasped jazz tradition through a 21st Century prism. Best of all, like each of the aforementioned artists, McAnsh and his colleagues perform their music with a rock'n'roll sort of excitement and energy.
Utopia, part 1; Utopia, part 2; Illustrations part 1; Illustrations, part 2;
Confabulation; Seven Seconds; 4 for 5; Nara, part 1; Nara, part 2; Osaka.
Andrew McAnsh: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeff Larochelle: tenor saxophone; P.J.
Andersson: trombone; Chris Pruden: piano; Mjaa Danielson: voice (1-4); Mara
Nesrallah: voice (5,8,9); Geoff Young: guitar (1-4,10); Wes Allen: bass (1-4,10);
Soren Nissen: bass (5-9);
Ian Wright: drums.