Canada's Maritime Jazz Orchestra has been around since at least 1996 when it released Siren's Song on the same Justin Time label. Many of the same performers are on this their latest release, certainly the principal ones of Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone and John Taylor. Probably the best-known performer is trumpet/flugelhorn player Kenny Wheeler who has been in the forefront of advanced and avant-garde jazz since the 1960's in Canada and in Europe. Wheeler is the only one of the three headliners who solos on each of the cuts as he gives a special brand of vibrancy to each undertaking. But Wheeler is by no means the only prime soloist. "Now and Now Again" provides a big opportunity for the tenor of Mike Murley, who is quickly climbing up the ladder of prominent sax players in Canada, taking the lead. Irrespective of the tempo, and the tempos do move often and sharply on this album, the album is mostly about improvisation, while not quite falling into the category of free form extemporization, clearly each performer, once the ensemble playing breaks off, is permitted to communicate his/her ideas with a somewhat loosely constructed theme. The one exception, perhaps, is Wheeler's "Sweet Ruby Suite" where the playing is more disciplined and structured, and with a running time of almost ½ hour, taking on the form of modern classical music and recalling some of the orchestral works of Gil Evans. This piece is deeply textured and relies heavily on the use of ensemble playing. There is notable delicate pianism by John Taylor segueing into the voice of a pioneer of free jazz vocal, Norma Winstone. But on this album, she is not a vocalist, rather her voice is used as an instrument just as if it were a horn.
This album is not for timid of heart or ear. But for those willing to take the time to listen and let this modern creative jazz music consume you, it will be a highly lucrative experience.
Track Listing: Sweet Ruby Suite; Pure and Simple; Now and Now Again; W. W.
Personnel: Kenny Wheeler - Trumpet/Flugelhorn; John Taylor - Piano; Norma Winstone - Voice; Greg Carter - Alto & Soprano Sax; Evan Shaw - Alto Sax; Mike Murley/Kirk MacDonald - Tenor Sax; Dave Westdal - Baritone Sax; Jocelyn Couture, Rob Smith, Dave Jackson, Jim Hargreaves - Trumpet; Gene Smith, Dave Grott, Gordon Meyers, Daryl Burghardt - Trombone; John Hollenbeck - Drums; Jim Vivien - Bass; Al Sutherland - Guitar