Canadian saxophonist Anna Webber
's quartet provides a second winning entry in Out Of Your Head Records' digital Untamed series, following Nick Dunston
's Atlantic Extraction: Live At Threes
(2020). Webber calls the band Rectangles after a composition inspired by a sequence of 10-second videos on the YouTube test channel Webdriver Torso
which consist of a string of high pitches coupled with images of red and blue rectangles flashing across the screen. If that premise sounds unpromising, the execution is anything but.
Webber included the same composition in three varying guises on Binary
(Skirl, 2016) by her Simple Trio (with pianist Matt Mitchell
and drummer John Hollenbeck
). All the charts on that album were derived in various ways from things found on the internet. Although The Simple Trio never performed "Rectangles 3" live, Webber found the constituent single measure loops so stimulating and fun that she put together a band to play an entire set comprising nothing else.
This 34-minute live recording from Queens in December 2019, captured on pianist Marc Hannaford
's portable Zoom recorder, emphatically realizes her ambition. Webber draws all the members of the quartet from the Big Band, which she jointly helms with fellow countrywoman and reed player Angela Morris
, responsible for the excellent Both Are True
(Greenleaf, 2020). Completed by bassist Adam Hopkins
and drummer Mark Ferber
, the foursome places the repeating structures under the microscope and discover a world of possibilities.
Straight from Webber's unaccompanied gitgo, where she calmly reiterates and elaborates a simple phrase, before zigzagging between the registers in increasingly animated fashion, it's clear that with sufficient imagination the potential for individual expression within the constraints of the piece is boundless. It's minimalism on steroids. Her band is a tight unit, but still able to effortlessly shift between group improvisation and highly structured notation.
Webber marshals overlapping layers of activity, so that as one metric cell ends, there's another already in motion to maintain the relentless momentum. Amid the ceaseless flow, Webber finds opportunities to explore the saxophone tradition, variously jazzy and driving, investigating extended techniques along the way, often integrating or reinforcing the rhythmic motifs while doing so. Webber apart the band enjoys, not so much solos as vignettes, shining briefly before the caravan moves on.
It's worth noting that in the time of COVID-19 all proceeds from Untamed sales are given directly to the artists, and OOYH Records will be donating an additional dollar per album sold to organizations of the artists' choosing.
In its selfless focus and concentration on limited materials, the set recalls Ahmed's stunning Super Majnoon (East Meets West)
(Otoroku, 2019), and the outcome is similarly thrilling.