Craig Pedersen Quartet - Days Like Today (Bandcamp, 2012) ****
From Ottawa comes the Craig Pedersen Quartet which is comprised of Pedersen on trumpet and composition, Linsey Wellman on alto sax, Joel Kerr on bass and Mike Essoudry behind the drum kit. Days Like Today, Pedersen' debut full length recording, is a wonderful mix of clever composition and free jazz. There are no throw away numbers here. Opening track, "The Baron", is borderline kitschy in a film noir kind of way (sounds like it would be a jazz club favourite) but luckily it didn't follow through and there is no sign of it anywhere else on the album, which is full of well played and fully realized ideas. The sound itself is an ambitious choice as there is little to no reverb present which allows for a very crisp trumpet. An astringent tea for the ears. The title track, "Days Like Today", is a real winner in a pool of very competitive swimmers.
See Through Trio - Near Northern Static (Woods and Waters, 2012)***½
Based out of Toronto, this is the trio's third release. In a similar approach as Pedersen, the band jumps back and forth between sweet intros, which are so familiar that you would think they are covering jazz standards, and free jazz moments. This is a very pleasant listening experience but there always seems that there are more rules that need to be broken. The recording does kick up a notch on "I Got a Little Sidetracked", when the bass gets bowed for different feel and mood which goes a long way in a piano, sax, and bass trio. As well as they play together, their personalities get to shine as they each get a solo track to stretch their visions. Listen for Tania Gill's piano solo on "On My Sleeve", Mark Laver's sax solo on "Stars and Satellites" and Pete Johnston's bass solo on "On the Square".
Michel Lambert - Journal Des Épisodes (Rant, 2012) ****
Beware of tracks like track 61, "Mystère", as they will catch you off guard with their emotion. Lambert has a big sounding kit that is recorded well. When he hits a downbeat, sometimes only once a track, it fills the gap between the ear lobe and the brain. He crafts these tracks to become a jazzsaw puzzle that takes some imagination to put together but the final picture is worth the effort. You may even find you mind wandering and wondering what your own musical journal would sound like.