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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Lina Allemano Four - Sometimes Y (Lumo Records, 2017) ****½

By Lee Rice Epstein

If you’ve kept up with trumpet player Lina Allemano’s career, you’ve likely read or heard about her two main groups, Lina Allemano Four and Titanium Riot. And you’ve probably seen the two tagged with something like “more traditional” and “more experimental” labels, but you should absolutely resist this dichotomy. It’s a short-sighted view of Allemano, ascribing traditional to a pianoless acoustic quartet and experimental to an improvising electro-acoustic quartet. In both, elements of tradition and experimentation collide, fascinatingly.

Start with the second track, “Kanada,” for a look at how brilliantly the quartet interacts. Nick Fraser provides staccato, percussive fills, as bassed Andrew Downing first teases the melody. Allemano and alto saxophonist Brodie West quickly snap to, hitting the succinct melody before coming to a quick halt. An extended, sprightly improvisation leads to another statement of the theme, before the group pivots to an spacious middle section. It’s a propulsive and dynamic tune, constantly evolving and circling back on itself. It’s worth noting Allemano and West are a superb front line, but I don’t want to dismiss Downing and Fraser in any way. Reflecting the name of the group, the four are truly interacting in concert, with solo and duo statements spinning off in all directions. All four musicians display an openness and sensitivity to the other members.

“Cowlick” opens with bright, symphonic blasts from Allemano and West that recede just as Downing and Fraser step forward. During a slightly deconstructed call-and-response section in the middle, Fraser’s percussion accents underline his skill at both directing and augmenting group improvisation. On “Marina and Lou,” the group takes a ballad theme and extends it into some moving improvised territory.

From this latest release, it seems Allemano could take the group anywhere, possibly even expand to a quintet or sextet. It would be interesting to hear a vibraphonist in this mix, a la Nate Wooley’s quintet or Harris Eisenstadt’s Canda Day quintet. Even with all that’s happening in the music, there’s more than enough room for more voices and ideas.