This is an altogether sunny and pleasing session by the splendid University of Toronto 12tet, which sounds at times like a full-fledged big band, at others like a leaner and more even-tempered chamber jazz group. The songs and arrangements, most by members of the ensemble (including a couple by director Terry Promane), are lush and lyrical, with good use made on several numbers by the voice of Jacqueline Teh whose vocalese serves as an auxiliary instrument to add warmth and color to the palette.
The album's five original compositions are enfolded among more familiar themes by Cy Coleman / Carolyn Leigh ("Witchcraft"), Billy Strayhorn ("Isfahan") and Duke Ellington ("Star Crossed Lovers"). Promane wrote and arranged the title song and "The Icemaker's Mistress" and scored "Witchcraft," while drummer Mike Rajna arranged Jim Cowherd's "Crooked Creek," bassist Alex Lakusta brings out the best in "Isfahan" and "Star Crossed Lovers," and alto Emily Denison does the same for Nils Berg's breezy "Hat Music." Pianist Noam Lemish replaces incumbent Jacob Thompson on his own composition, the sensuous "Song for Lia," whose soloists are alto Anthony Argatoff and guitarist Dan Pitt.
While the over-arching temperament is one of composure, the ensemble ramps up the heat on "Witchcraft" (introduced by Rajna's emphatic drum solo), the chorale-like "Icemaker's Mistress" and toe-tapping "Hat Music." Soloists are in all cases respectable, enhancing every number with earnest ad-libbing. Pitt, Denison, Thompson and Argatoff have their admirable moments, as do trumpeter Brad Eaton, trombonist Modibo Keita, bassist Lakusta and tenors Keiran Murphy and Harrison Argatoff. A well-designed and well-performed album whose many pleasures should gladden any ardent listener.
Track Listing: Crooked Creek; Witchcraft; Song for Lia; Isfahan; The Icemaker’s Mistress; Star Crossed Lovers; Trillium Falls; Hat Music.
Personnel: Terry Promane: director, composer, arranger; Emily Denison: trumpet, flugelhorn; Brad Eaton: trumpet, flugelhorn; Anthony Argatoff: alto sax; Harrison Argatoff: tenor sax; Kieran Murphy: tenor sax; Modibo Keita: trombone; Zach Smith: trombone; Dan Pitt: guitar; Jacob Thompson: piano (1, 2, 4-8); Noam Lemish: piano (3); Alex Lakusta: bass; Mike Rajna: drums; Jacqueline Teh: vocals.
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