Friday, June 09, 2023

CD Review: Lina Allemano Four - Pipe Dream

Lina Allemano Four
Pipe Dream

In these current times, when keeping a band together can be nearly impossible, Lina Allemano Four serves as a glowing example of tenacity, having been together for 18 years. Trumpeter Allemano resides in Toronto, the home of the quartet, which includes Brodie West (alto saxophone), Andrew Downing (bass) and Nick Fraser (drums). She also spends a good deal of time in Berlin, involved with several other projects, which she has documented prolifically. (Info on some of them can be found here.)

Allemano used the blend of her trumpet and West's alto to fuse an Ornette Coleman Quartet sound with brainy, quasi-AACM compositions on previous albums like Vegetables (2021). Pipe Dream is made up of a four-part suite, complete with solo interludes, along with three stand-alone pieces that employ more of a chamber group approach in the writing. Sometimes it takes a while for the quartet to jettison from the containment of the written parts towards the freedom. But the way they interact, as both a group and in horn and rhythm sections, always offers a payoff.

Anything can happen in the music, as proven by "Banana Canon" which begins with the two horns trading octave leaps and melodies, casually volleying ideas back and forth, and eventually blowing over a two-chord groove. (The digital version of the album includes two alternate takes, one being "Banana Canon" which adds even more drive than the master.)  The title track is based on a theme by Prokofiev and also has a open, free improvisation style to it, which Downing (playing arco) and Fraser practically dominate.

Allemano penned the Plague Diaries suite in the early months of the pandemic as an emotional response to the lockdown and the way it impacted people. Movement titles like "Trying Not To Freak Out," "Doom and Doomer" tell part of the story. In "Longing" the horns use a descending line as springboard, blowing freely while the rhythm section provides again gives the music a strong drive. "Hunger and Murder," two things the trumpeter noticed during that time, moves like a funeral procession for several minutes before things come to a boil, with Allemano putting the gravel in her tone, and her bandmates contributing to the tension. 

Fraser opens "Doom and Doomer" with an ecstatic free solo that sets the tone for the suite's final movement. His multi-directional playing continues through most of the piece, accompanying and nearly overpowering equally manic solos from Allemano and Ross. Like the events that inspired it, the piece doesn't come with a neat resolve, just an ending. 

Throughout the album, special mention should be made about the pliability of Ross's tone. In addition to his original solo voice, he blends with the bowed bass in the canon-like opening of "Trying Not To Freak Out," using a reedy sound that comes off like a flute. In "Doom and Doomer," his attack resembles guitar strings, albeit briefly. When combined with the leader's tendency to go from pensive to bright to vicious on her horn, this frontline continues to reveal their power that can build after you've played together for close to two decades. 

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