Rampersaud Shaw Neal Martin Krakawiac: Halcyon Science
Barnyard Records

Halcyon Science presents seven in-studio tracks laid down in a single day by a quintet featuring alto and baritone saxophonist Evan Shaw, trumpeter Nicole Rampersaud, drummer Jean Martin, double bassist Wes Neal, and percussionist Tomasz Krakowiak. They're billed as an “electroacoustic improvisation” unit, and though the description generally fits—Martin does, after all, bring some colourful laptop interventions to the proceedings, and there is a strong improv feel, too (audible especially during “0110011,” a restless dirge that develops organically in explorative and free-form manner by all involved)—, sonically at least, the group might be more accurately thought of as an Ornette Coleman-styled quintet (circa The Shape of Jazz to Come) that, via some wrinkle in time, found itself in a Toronto studio on April 13, 2010. While Shaw's playing doesn't necessarily call Coleman to mind, one can almost hear Don Cherry whispering in Rampersaud's ear during “What Is It You Are Looking At?,” for example.

Tracks such as “Take Me To Your Leader” and the bluesy “Little Bird Told Me So” find Neal adopting the role of stabilizing nucleus, Rampersaud and Shaw wrapping serpentine lines around one another and voicing oblique themes, and the percussionists sprinkling the air with all manner of loose-limbed punctuations. The musicians play with an appealing degree of fluidity; disregarding the traditional roles that sees front-line players soloing and the rhythm section assuming a mere back-up function, the five swap roles throughout, with each alternating between anchoring the ensemble and letting his individual voice take him where it naturally leads. It's a truly live music, in other words, one born in the moment and growing out of it. That's never more apparent than during a longer piece such as “Dirigible,” which moves through multiple, unpredictable twists and turns in its dozen minutes. Theirs is also an appealingly restrained music, which isn't always the direction taken in improv situations like this one, with the five opting for a refreshingly reflective approach throughout “Six The” rather than something more fiery.

March 2012