Over the past few years there has been an influx of innovative new jazz blowing down from Canada. One acclaimed band, the No Name Jazz Sextet, recently released a self-titled CD, an array of tunes written by several members of the group, all acolytes of the hard bop faith. (Members made a special trip to Sweet Rhythm last month.) While that classic style is the driving force, the group displays an impressive fluency in the other jazz idioms it embraces.
The opener, "Blakey's Memory," underscores the spirit in which the band plays, with the frenetic urgency of the theme, Aron Doyle's smooth trumpeting, a cool alto solo by Alexandre Côté, crisp interplay between tenor man Roberto Murray and drummer Ugo Di Vito, and Vincent Rehel's fierce organ pulse. The richly layered horn arrangement on "Winter's Dance" is straight from the Wayne Shorter playbook. On "Corny F Blues" Rehel complements Murray's smoky tenor; "Abbey's Mood" has a big band texture, with Côté's alto spiraling against the somber, mysterious orchestration.
The ambitious "No Name Jazz Suite" is the centerpiece, a three-part invention which is a hybrid of big band and straight-ahead playing featuring Côté on baritone sax and Murray playing soprano. Rehel's lovely Hammond solo here is filled with fire and pathos, with Di Vito using mallets to heighten the drama and bassist Frederic Grenier supplying a sturdy foundation. "Off Prince" is the sextet's nod to modernism, complete with free jazz flourishes and replications of the Doppler effect. "Les Couloirs" brings everything full circle, back to hard bop with the band's vibrant horn play and arrangements.
Homage is most effective when it doesn't reduce itself to simple mimicry. The No Name Jazz Sextet expresses its uniqueness within the context of its appreciation of what has come before. When word gets out on this fine recording, more people will learn about the band, and, with luck, the self-deprecating humor inherent in its name will be trumped.