Too Many Continents
Little by little (we would prefer otherwise, but that’s how things go), all that the Canadian scene has to offer comes to light. Drummer and composer Nick Fraser is a fundamental figure of the progressive jazz circuit established in Toronto, due to his «feeling for economical gestures and innate sense of form», as critic Mark Miller wrote. And indeed, he’s out in the open: after playing with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Dave Liebman, Marilyn Crispell and David Binney, in this new opus he has the company of two other notable musicians with international reputations: Tony Malaby and Kris Davis. They enable him to give some groove to the music (wrong: lots of it!) and to be a colorist whenever needed, going to avant-garde land without losing sight of the jazz tradition. If you’ve already heard him with the bands Drumheller, Ugly Beauties, Peripheral Vision and Titanium Riot, “Too Many Continents” is something else. Between Malaby’s tenor sax harshness and Davis’ refined piano constructions, Fraser has enough room to surprise us. And he does. They all do, over and over and over.
Nick Fraser’s notes on the music:
“Too Many Continents” expands on my interest in geography, in the world around us, in language and space. In where people choose to make their lives and why.
I’ve known Kris and Tony for close to twenty years and have long felt a kinship with their music. The title piece is the first thing that we played together on the day we recorded and it offers a patient, rambling, and expansive improvisation to open the album.
“Recovered As Granted (Sketch 28/27)” is a reading of two pieces indebted to Edgar Varese. After stating the melody a few times, Tony plays a solo that really goes from zero to sixty (and back again). One thing that this album offers is (I believe) a more complete portrayal of Tony’s soprano saxophone playing than I have heard on record.
“I Needed It Yesterday” is about patience and impatience. The title is from some graffiti that I found near my house in Toronto. A cryptic and vaguely threatening message writ large. Kris really slams the door on this one. What Kris offers a group of improvisers as a structuralist is unparalleled. She has an uncanny ability to frame abstract material into clear, cogent musical statements.
“Also” is a piece that I have recorded four times, making it possibly the most recorded piece in the history of Canadian free jazz. It’s a ballad.
“Nostalgia for the Recent Past” opens with a soprano and drum improvisation over an insistent repeated single piano note. Kris continues to use that single note as the theme for further improvisation. A weighty improvised ballad follows.
“Sketch #25” was inspired by the great Muhal Richard Abrams.
“There’ll be More Dreams to Come” could be the title of a jazz standard. It features some more of Tony’s deeply swinging soprano playing.
I hope you enjoy the music.
-Nick Fraser, 2015
Tracks 1, 3, 5 and 7 by Nick Fraser (SOCAN), Tony Malaby (Chubasco Music/SESAC) and Kris Davis (Socan) / Tracks 2, 4 and 6 composed by Nick Fraser (SOCAN)
Recorded by Michael Brorby / Mixed and mastered by Fedge / Produced by Nick Fraser
Executive production by Pedro Costa for Trem Azul / Design by Travassos