Tania Gill’s Disappearing Curiosities

10 - 01 TaniaGillQuartet-Cover

2021GILL: Marsh Music. To Montreal. Jaunty Woo. Tangled Branches (for Geri Allen). Climate Striker. Apology. Frisbee. Knocked Over. ANON.: People Gonna Rise Like the Water / Tania Gill, pno/MG-1 synth; Lina Allemano, tpt; Rob Clutton, bs; Nico Dann, dm / self-produced CD/digital download

This nifty little album, due for release on March 11, 2022, features Toronto-based pianist-composer Tania Gill and her quartet playing a series of very strange jazz compositions by the leader plus one piece with no named composer.

When the opener, Marsh Music, started, I almost stopped listening since this is a slow, somewhat meandering piece, not my usual taste, but once the trumpet (playing sub-tone) entered, followed in a few bars by the bass and drums, both the harmony and the melodic line changed, became more interesting, and I started listening in earnest. I can’t say that there’s much improvisation on this opening piece—it sounds more through-composed to me—but an excellent and deceivingly “simple” piece it most assuredly is. At the 2:30 mark, Gill adds high-pitched synthesizer sounds to her piano playing, the tempo almost comes to a halt, and the music (again, mostly written) develops in a strange, atmospheric way. Then, at 3:40, the drums break up the rhythm as Allemano plays an improvised trumpet solo, and a very strange one at that, but this, too doesn’t last long. The tempo subtly shifts in its accents as Gill and Allemano play a variant on the theme as the ride-out.

To Montreal is more uptempo, using an asymmetric rhythm and some bop overtones. Again, though this is clearly a jazz piece in terms of tempo and rhythmic feel, the music sounds very much composed except for another Allemano solo, this time quite flashy but also substantive, over the propulsive bass of Rob Clutton and the drums, with Gill providing short, stabling chords to punctuate the rhythm. It continues to build in excitement, even as Allemano pulls back a bit on the flash to play a sequence ot held notes. Gill’s single-note piano solo is that of a composer improvising on her own piece, very explorative without being splashy. The piece then comes to an abrupt end.

14 - Tania Gill by Jeremy Mimnagh

Tania Gill (photo by Jeremy Mimnaugh)

Jaunty Woo swings more than the preceding two tracks in a boppish way, but again the underlying rhythm is broken up into little pieces by Clutton and Dann. More and more as this CD progresses, Allemano take charge of the proceedings with her superb solos, but Gill’s own solo on this track is also quite exceptional. Tangled Branches, a piece dedicated to the great Geri Allen, opens slowly with an amorphous melodic line played by Allemano with a bowed bass counter-line by Clutton before Gill plays an out-of-tempo solo, then the drums enter and things become quite complex. The tempo then decreases, comes to a full stop, and resumes with trumpet and piano playing against one another. Climate Striker is a hard-driving, uptempo piece using bitonal harmony, the most “outside” piece so far in this set; this sounds mostly improvised to me, with Allemano again brilliant on trumpet. Again there is a full stop, after which the music becomes slower and darker in mood.

Apology opens with a beat that sounds Latin, almost like a samba, but this, too doesn’t last long as the piece morphs and changes. Clutton plays an extraordinary bowed bass solo, pushing his instrument up into the altissimo range; in the latter part of this, Allemano plays high, fluttering figures on trumpet before descending to her normal range. Frisbee opens with muted trumpet before moving into a sort of quirky, asymmetric march rhythm. It has a quasi-comical sound about it, playful but in a highly artistic way. Knocked Over almost sounds like a continuation of the previous piece, a fitting close to this extraordinary program.

I was very highly impressed by this recording, both in terms of the compositions and the way the quartet was able to dovetail the solos into the written portions. You really need to hear this one!

—© 2021 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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