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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Lina Allemano Four - Vegetables Album (Lumo, 2021) ****

By Stef Gijssels

The Lina Allemano Four have been performing together at least since 2005 in the current line-up of Lina Allemano on trumpet, Brodie West on alto, Andrew Downing on double bass and Nick Fraser on drums. This by itself is already a sign of a tight collaboration, a shared approach and almost a guarantee for strong interplay. 

As mentioned before, the band offers the perfect balance between composed and improvised parts, often sounding like a modern version of the Ornette Coleman Quartet, with thematic anchor points serving as beacons to work around. The compositions are smart, complex and playful. Last year, Canadian trumpeter Stephanie Richards used scents as an inspiration for her music. Here, Lina Allemano uses vegetables to guide her creativity. 

"Onions" is funny, cinematic, at times even the imagery of a cartoon chase comes to mind (but maybe that's my mind, more than the music), with sudden tempo changes, angular in nature, with stop and go moments, gentle and ferocious at the same time. 

"Beans" a brings a slightly contorted composition, with a smart bifurcation between sax and trumpet, escaping from the initial unison line in different directions and organically converging again, like streams weaving their phrases around each other. 

"Champignons" starts with a kind of Americana theme, melancholy and a tad sentimental (it could have been penned by Bill Frisell), then the piece slows down into a long and slow arco bass solo, joined again by Allemano halfway the track, who takes it to solemn place, then moving the piece from a subdued to an almost ecstatic atmosphere. 

"Brussels Sprouts, Maybe Cabbage" offers a more complex composition, dynamic in nature, angular and energetic with sax and trumpet in counterpoint, and with a dramatic theme unraveling in different parallel phrases, moving seamlessly back and forth between organisation and disorganisation. It really demonstrates Allemano's compositional strengths, as well as the tight interplay. The video below illustrates this. 

"Oh Avocado" is interesting, again generating visual imagery (at least to me), characterised by a cinematic development and narrative with a shifting structure, alternating between quiet polyphony and exuberant unison lines. 

"Leafy Greens" brings another complex composition, with unexpected twists and turns, abandoning ideas as fast as they are created, even deliberately taking the pulse out of the piece, working with counter rhythms and an exploratory mid-section. 

Fun, funny even at times, the Lina Allemano Four is a band that interacts with great discipline and freedom after so many years of performing and recording together, finding the right balance between composition and improvisation, tight arrangements and freedom, between comfort zones and out-of-the-box explorations, and all this in a very unassuming manner, without any pretence. And to Allemano's credit, her compositions bring you - as the listener - also out-of-the-box because of their unexpected, surprising, eclectic and playful nature.  

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Watch an alternate take of "Brussels Sprouts, Maybe Cabbage"


Ken Blanchard said...

Root vegetables, apparently. I rarely impulse buy, but sitting in on the YouTube session and listening to the sample on Bandcamp did its work on me. The recording is so crisp and clear and the musical lines so evocative, how could I not?

ps. I heard the cartoon chase too.