Tunetown is a three-man collective, and a classic sax-bass-drums line-up. Rooted in Rollins and Konitz this ensemble has august precedents and this new Canadian group, founded in 2015, shows both its own individual and collective strengths and, by extension, the enduring depth of talent to be found in the Canadian jazz scene.
The twelve tracks are, with two exceptions, products of the band members, either singly or with pooled resources. The two exceptions are Charlie Parker’s Cheryl and the Bob Russell-Lester Lee tune Blue Gardenia. The former adopts crisp, increasingly accelerating tempi and fine solos, especially the Rollinsesque playing here of Kelly Jefferson. The latter closes the album, an inventively arranged charmer, with a fulsome sprung rhythm, and with Cervini taking up the bass clarinet to add sonic variety.
The droll opener, by comparison, Hello, Today is a Cervini original notable for the blues-drenched tenor playing, and the lithe tight ensemble generated by this formidable trio. The opening bass solo on Artie Roth’s own Entering Utopia offers an entree on this ruminative ballad reworking (it plays on Johnny Green’s Out of Nowhere once famously recorded in Paris by Coleman Hawkins in Benny Carter’s arrangement). A lyric ballad follows, Layla Tov, in which Roth’s delicately intricate bass playing is soon joined by Jefferson’s warm soprano. This is followed by Billyish, another Cervini original, in which the boppish exchanges between tenor and drums, which sits at its heart, offer finger-popping vitality. All three players contribute to the composition of Flood, Deluge, a rather abrasive toughie to listen to as well as to Look Down which, by contrast, is a one-minute, compact lyric offering. Two other pieces are strangely short, and also function as interludes rather than worked-though compositions, Sgraffito and Looking Glass, neither of which even approaches a minute in length, though they were recorded at the end of the session and act as reflections of the pieces previously recorded. Much more germane is the songful warmth embedded in Roth’s Memories Remain, a slow deft ballad with a lyric enveloping that is slowly slipped off to allow an increasing quotient of emotive heat.
This is a strong trio outing, in which written and improvised elements function to advantage. I have to say I could have done without the Interludes but there’s no gainsaying the serious pedigree of this trio.