The Return of Allison Au


WANDER WONDER / AU: The Valley. Future Self. The Rest is Up to You. Looking Up. Morning. The Lie That Saves Us All. Red Herring. Grounds. A Trick of the Moonlight. AU-PENTNEY: Force Majeure / Allison Au, a-sax; Todd Pentney, pno/Prophet Rev2; Jon Maharaj, bs/el-bs; Fabio Ragnelli, dm / independent release, available at CD Baby and

I gave a rave review to Allison Au’s previous release, Forest Grove. This one starts with a glissando played by the band which leads into a slow, amorphous melodic line that lasts a little over two minutes, then shifts into a slow groove piece titled Future Self. This is where the real jazz begins. Her first solo is a bit on the meandering side, but as the beat solidifies behind her she becomes more interesting. Todd Pentley’s first piano solo begins in a ruminating fashion, using single notes, but again becomes richer and more creative in the second chorus. Later on, there’s a very interesting passage in which bassist Jon Maharaj plays double-time licks behind Au’s solo, then it suddenly ends.

These two numbers set the tone for this album, which is more ruminative than her previous release but no less interesting. This is more of a self-exploration series of pieces, combining various moods with jazz, often changing and shifting the beat to suit hers and the rhythm section’s moods as the music moves along. In The Rest is Up to You, this includes a bit of funk which then changes into a sort of shuffle beat, while in Looking Up the tempo is vague and difficult to pin down, but it surely moves well once it reaches some steady 4 stretches, and Au is again excellent playing against the bass.

Maharaj plays an odd walking line in a sort of 7/8 tempo (I think) over which Au plays the equally odd melody. The piano and drums come and go almost at whim, though filling in nicely when they do. Only with The Lie That Serves Us All do we finally reach a medium-uptempo, though again Au and the quartet change both meter and tempo frequently.

These little musical cat-and-mouse games permeate Wander Wonder. It’s a strange sort of album, even more amorphous in many ways than Forest Grove, but always interesting and creative. As the music goes on, Pentney becomes more and more the center of the music, with the leader and the others gravitating around his orbit.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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Read my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed guide to the intersection of classical music and jazz


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