The Engines with John Tchicai, Other Violets (NotTwo)
You wouldn’t be far off if you considered the current touring edition of the Engines to be a Vandermark-less Vandermark 5, circa 2005.
The Engines formed as a trio with Dave Rempis on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, bassist Nate McBride and Tim Daisy on drums. Rempis and Daisy were members of the 5, as was Jeb Bishop, whose trombone augmented the group to a quartet by 2006 when their first self-titled album was released. The connection to Vandermark’s vehicle is completed on their current North American jaunt, as Kent Kessler replaces the too-tied-up-to-tour McBride.
The similarities between these two ensembles don’t end with the 80 per cent overlap in personnel. Both outfits focus on the familiar free jazz fantasia format, folding composed themes into improvisational forays. The writing is tight, even when the unison passages exemplify that deliberate drag-then-leap-ahead bittersweet discord that has been characteristic of jazz heads since time immemorial.
But what makes Other Violets truly special is the presence of guest saxophonist and flautist John Tchicai. Not many instrumentalists have played with both John Lennon and John Coltrane, and about as few Europeans were present in the early days of free jazz. Perhaps most famous for playing a large role on Coltrane’s Ascension, prior to that peak he was already well immersed in Manhattan’s jazz underground, with both the New York Contemporary Five and the New York Art Quartet. The album was recorded live at Chicago’s Hungry Brain in 2011, about 17 months before John Tchicai’s passing in October of 2012, making it among the last of Tchicai’s recordings.
Seven compositions are spread amongst the five tracks, with Tchicai and Bishop each contributing two, along with one each from Rempis, Daisy and McBride. There’s more collective improvisation than soloing, and the album’s strength is in the non-stop intertwining of the two saxophones with interjections from the ‘bone. Nevertheless, a lengthy a cappella section on Daisy’s “Gloxinia” provides space for the horns and brass to stretch out, and McBride’s “High and Low” starts with a theme for unaccompanied brass, making the moment when the rhythm section kicks in all the more startling.
Bishop’s “Planet” revs the Engines up to warp speed while not losing sight of the twisted voyage ahead. The band at their best.
The Engines play Casa del Popolo (4873 St-Laurent) tonight, Wednesday, April 10, 8:30 p.m., $12
Michael Feuerstack, “Shadow”
Snailhouse’s Michael Feuerstack will soon release a new record, Tambourine Death Bed, out May 7 c/o Forward Music. Here’s a preview.
Boogat, “Eres hecha para mi”
Directed by Mariano Franco (of Parc Avenue restaurant Tachido, incidentally), a track from Boogat‘s recently released record El Dorado Sunset.
GI. Joe & GI. Jane, “Tellement Famous”
This misguided bit of boastful rapping, and the video’s display of 514’s ghetto nooks, is all over the Queb-ternet. Watch it if you haven’t already and tells us whether it makes you happy or sad (we’re honestly on the fence).