For casual observers of jazz (if such people exist), the Toronto scene probably seems like little more than an annual festival or a soundtrack for post-work beers at The Rex. But for years now, there’s been an extremely fertile indie-jazz movement located in and around the Annex’s longstanding DIY culture hub, The Tranzac.
It’s fitting, then, that one of the city’s most promising jazzers, trumpeter Lina Allemano—one of the instrument’s top innovators, according to Downbeat Magazine—has called her fifth full-length as bandleader simply, Live at the Tranzac. The album finds her once again teaming up with three other Tranzac aces: saxophonist Brodie West and drummer Nick Fraser, both of whom are members of one of the Annex hub’s most enduring experimental jazz outfits, Drumheller, and classical/jazz double bassist Andrew Downing.
Allemano’s group draws on the same thrillingly intuitive free-jazz that powers Drumheller’s aesthetic, but on their most recent effort, the playing is much sharper, with the soloists focused more on exploring melodies than textures. Album closer “Middle Finger” skips along on Fraser’s Latin beat, while even the lengthy “Atomic Number 22” keeps things interesting by balancing the frenetic group solos in the front half with an elegantly meditative coda.
Allemano has been one of the few local players to bridge the gap between avant-garde and mainstream audiences, and this album is yet another argument for the latter group to give her a much bigger spotlight the next time the festival rolls around.
Playlist picks “Middle Finger,” “Hush”
The Lina Allemano Four play a CD release at The Tranzac (292 Brunswick Ave.) on Nov. 11.