Canadian bassist Pete Johnston
is something of a jack-of-all-trades composer, working in contexts ranging from abstract chamber music to the headier fringes of prog-rock. His various See Through groupings allow him to pursue his muse wherever it leads: See Through Two's Slow Bend
(All- Set!, 2016) has him teamed up with fellow bassist Rob Clutton
for some low-key dialogues, while See Through 5 enables him to repay his debt to electronic rock forbears from the 70s and 80s, as on Margins
(All-Set!, 2016). But for listeners seeking something more solidly in the jazz spectrum, See Through 4 sits in the sweet spot, and Permanent Moving Parts
, the group's 2021 outing, is an excellent recording and a terrific entryway to Johnston's music.
Previous iterations of the band have drawn on the talents of fellow Toronto veterans such as Marilyn Lerner
, Nick Fraser
, and Karen Ng
, but here Johnston is working with a new configuration. Drummer Jake Oelrichs
possesses the requisite rhythmic fluidity to anchor Johnston's grooves without getting too predictable, while vibraphonist Michael Davidson
and trumpeter Lina Allemano
make a terrific tandem, sometimes contributing to the music's central architecture through careful counterpoint and at other moments leaping into adventurous solos.
Pieces like "Underground Over Night" and "Quietly Fading Fast" trade on their rhythmic energy, with insistent yet malleable pulses that free up the musicians to develop their ideas mutually or individually. Allemano and Davidson have an extensive repertoire of emotional registers, capable of subtle lyricism, shimmering texture or garrulous intensity. Their invigorating interactions on the sprightly "Surrender Before Then" are especially enticing. But the music always feels well-contained; even a hard-charging, bop-inflected tune like "Possible Daylight Dreams" maintains a controlled simmer, with the well-established chemistry between the four musicians more important than highlighting their individual virtuosity.
The group's convincing rapport is just as apparent on more impressionistic cuts like "Imperfect Sunlit Room," where delicate gestures predominate, and Allemano's terse phrases float over Davidson's lustrous surfaces. "Familiar Second Thoughts" is even more restrained, with a subdued sense of wonder that finishes the album on a somber note, as Allemano's plaintive muted trumpet ushers the music to its satisfying conclusion.
While Johnston's other projects certainly bear checking out, his partners on See Through 4 are especially well-suited to his compositional vision, making Permanent Moving Parts
a most listenable, and enjoyable, slice of creative jazz.
Underground Over Night; Everything Happens Once; Weathering Teenage Hopes; Quietly Fading Fast;
Possible Daylight Dreams; Imperfect Sunlit Room; Surrender Before Then; Familiar Second Thoughts.