Toronto-based, Juno Award-winning alto saxophonist Allison Au and her quartet present their follow-up to 2017's Forest Grove (Self Produced) with Wander Wonder. The set of all Au originalswith keyboardist Todd Pentney co-writing "Force Majeur"opens with a translucent dreamscape, "The Valley," that sounds like something that Daniel Lanois might have cooked up. The quartet follows up this wandering and brief-but-gorgeous opener with a buoyant modern jazz gem, "Future Self."
Au proves herself, again, a marvelous composer of engaging, accessible and melodic tunes, with a hint of perhaps a Wayne Shorter influence in her quartet sound. The set explores a lot of territory while maintaining a cohesive mood. Her music sounds consistently hopeful and modernistic. "The Lie That Saves Us All" with shifting meters combines an on-the edge quartet dynamic with Au's saxophone weaving throughout in an elegant-yet-playful fashion. Au, as a tunesmith and arranger is like fellow saxophonist Branford Marsalis in her way of music making, crafting compositions that make it sound like she and her cohorts are having the best of times.
"Red Herring" features keyboardist Pentrey adding washes of sounds with his Prophet Rev2 synthesizer. It proves itself a terrific addition to the quartet sound, featured also on the previously-mentioned opening tune, "The Valley."
Wander Wonder closes with the wistful "A Trick Of Moonlight," a nod to British author Zadie Smith, inspired perhaps by the writer's short story "Moonlit Landscape With Bridge." It is a reflective, enthralling listening experience, as intricately lovely as can be.
The Valley; Future Self; The Rest Is Up To You; Looking Up; Morning ; The Lie That Saves Us All ; Red Herring ; Grounds;
Force Majeure; A Trick Of The Moonlight.
Allison Au: saxophone; Todd Pentney: piano, Prophet Rev2; Jon Maharaj: bass, electric bass; Fabio Ragnelli: drums.