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Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra: Tidal Currents: East Meets West

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Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra: Tidal Currents: East Meets West
When it comes to appraising contemporary big bands, Canada's Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra is on equal footing with the best of them. For its seventh album, Tidal Currents, the WJO has engaged two of that country's leading jazz composers, Jill Townsend and Christine Jensen, to present in musical terms impressions of places that have a special meaning to them, in particular the bodies of water that inspired them in their younger years and up to this point in time.

Townsend and Jensen each wrote a pair of themes for what is essentially a four-part suite whose focal point is the waters of their homeland, from the rugged shores of the West Coast to the St. Lawrence River in Montreal. The music is thematic, and as is true of most such enterprises, it is best to acknowledge, then ignore its design and zero in on the outcome—which, it should be noted, is invariably impressive, from Townsend's seductive "Inside the Wave" to Jensen's light-hearted "Crossing Lachine," Townsend's cascading "Tidal Currents" and Jensen's shimmering "Rock Skipping Under the Half Moon." Inside the album jacket, the composers offer enlightening commentary on each number.

Jensen does more than write, fashioning eloquent soprano saxophone solos on "Tidal Currents" and "Rock Skipping." Other soloists—each of whom is persuasive—are trumpeter Matthew Walden and drummer Fabio Ragnelli ("Inside the Wave"), Ragnelli and tenor Niall Cade ("Crossing Lachine") and bassist Karl Kohut ("Tidal Currents"). Needless to say, Townsend and Jensen's charts are splendid, and the WJO nails them with an ease that befits its singular artistry. If there is a drawback, it is that the entire suite is less than thirty minutes long, and the WJO has chosen not to add anything more to flesh it out.

On the one hand, a superb album with no discernible flaws; on the other, one whose playing time is less than half a hour. If that isn't a problem, Tidal Currents is bright and buoyant enough to upraise anyone's spirits.

Track Listing

Inside the Wave; Crossing Lachine; Tidal Currents; Rock Skipping Under the Half Moon.

Personnel

Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra
band / ensemble / orchestra
Jill Townsend
composer / conductor
Shane Hicks
trumpet
Jeni Taylor
trumpet
Neil Watson
saxophone
Niall Cade
saxophone
Monica Jones
saxophone
Kyle Wedlake
saxophone
Joel Green
trombone
Isabelle Lavoie
trombone, bass
Karl Kohut
bass, acoustic
Larry Roy
guitar

Album information

Title: Tidal Currents: East Meets West | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Chronograph Records


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