It has been two years since trombonist William Carn's previous record, Other Stories
(Self Published, 2006). Lessons Learned
uses the same band and, as would be expected, demonstrates growth from everyone involved, but especially Carn himself.
Carn has always been completely at ease with the technical demands of the trombone, hence the most obvious growth is in his compositions and their arrangement. Although he states in the notes that he hopes the music "conveys the hardship, humour [sic], and frustration that I've found so very inspirational," it stands on its own.
His quintet includes saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, who showed on his own album Spark
(Self Published, 2005), that he has something to say, and pianist David Braid
, whose career as a leader in his own right continues to shine. Bassist Kieran Overs and drummer Anthony Michelli make up the rhythm section.
Carn's arrangements create a group sound and texture, and are not mere vehicles for him to blow. Each piece has a unique identity that only starts with the melody and its harmony, but is also solidified by such things as the bass line, which he likes to double with the piano's left hand.
The solos grow organically out of the arrangement, and the player must be aware of the role his solo plays in the dramatic structure of the piece. Each solo has a task to fulfill and it must not just follow the harmony, the melody or even the accompaniment. Instead, it needs to carry the whole structure forward towards its resolution point. There are many points where one can hear how the band moves in response to the soloist.
Jefferson and especially Braid are marvelous and exemplify how everything works in the tune "Go Figure." As he did in Other Stories
, Braid attracts attention by doing the simplest things very well. His solo is one long line with many twists and turns, varying note groupings and differing touches that surprise from moment to moment, pulling the music along. When Carn solos afterward, Braid does not just comp, but echoes his line while providing harmony and motion. Jefferson then takes over and gives a musical speech with lots of space that Braid, Overs and Michelli respond instantly to, and which Overs himself answers.
The younger Canadian scene, which includes these players and extends outward to people like saxophonists Tara Davidson and Mike Murley, has a common underlying lightness, optimism and buoyancy that is enormously refreshing, even on the more poignant ballads. Lessons Learned
is music which makes an impression from many details that Carn has laid out and which are developed by the group. The complexity is not apparent because it is so naturally organized, making the music rewarding for both body and mind.