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Monday, May 15, 2023

Lina Allemano Four - Pipe Dream (Lumo Records, 2023)

By Stef Gijssels

New albums by Canadian trumpeter Lina Allemano are always something to look out for, and this one is very high on the list. 

The Lina Allemano Four released its first album "Contentric" in 2003, but the band's current musicians have not changed since their sophomore album "Pinkey" from 2006. Allemano is on trumpet, Brodie West on alto, Andrew Downing on bass, and Nick Fraser on drums. This unusually long collaboration has clearly been very successful, as is demonstrated by this album: a band that moves as one, both in their mutual understanding of the technical aspects as well as the soul of the music. 

The first three tracks stand on their own, and are followed by a four-part suite, called "The Plague Diaries", each starting with a solo intro, to illustrate the loneliness of the musician during the covid crisis. 

The compositional power of Allemano has increased over the years, and this album is in that sense quite ambitious, yet it allows for smartly orchestrated improvisations by four musicians who move in an out of structured moments in a way that betrays their long collaboration.
"Banana Canon" is simply structured around a two-tone interval, a funny backbone that allows for tight arrangements and joyful and playful improvisations, with clear polyphonic references, as the trumpet and sax play the same lines with time differences or with variations, alternating clarity with complete disarray. 

The title song - inspired by a Prokofiev theme - is more complex in nature, and more varied in its build-up and development, and definitely more dramatic. "Dragon Fruit" mixes drama - the somber intro - with playful interaction - the core theme -, creating interesting contrasts, also between composed moments and improvised parts, with the unexpected silence somewhere near the middle allowing for each instrument to create their own sonic bits, slowly reintegrating back into the composition. 

"The Plage Diaries" start with a fantastic trumpet solo by Allemano, an almost two-minute moment of jubilant exaltation and sorrow at the same time, demonstrating her phenomenal technique on the instrument. When the rest of the band joins, the multilayered composition and strong arrangements are the first things to jump out. This is an almost classical composition with a jazz sound, complex and smart, full of variations, and like most other pieces, relatively compact. A lot is happening in the limited time span of the song, yet still allowing for the brilliant contrast between control and freedom. It is without a doubt the best composition on the album. 

"Trying Not To Freak Out" gets a sensitive sax solo intro by Brodie West, leading to possibly the most emotional piece on the record, driven by a 5/8 arco bass foundation, hit amidships by the band, completely  altering the mood of the piece, illustrating how normal life was completely disjointed during the pandemic.

In sum, music of paradoxes, as we like it: brilliant and complex compositions and arrangements allow for strong improvisations and spontaneous interaction between the musicians, resulting in music that is both smart and deeply emotional. 

Highly recommended!

Watch "Longing", performed live at Metropol Theater, Jazzahead, Bremen Germany, April 30, 2022.