Review: Ethan Ardelli, “The Island of Form”

Ethan Ardelli - The Island of Form

The unknown trajection and unpredictable behavior of “The Island of Form” by Ethan Ardelli is a significant part of its appeal.

“The Island of Form” is Sydney, Nova Scotia born/Toronto based drummer Ethan Ardelli’s first release as bandleader. Three stellar musicians join him: Luis Deniz – alto saxophone, Chris Donnelly – piano, and Devon Henderson – bass.

First track “Agua” begins subtly enough but, then, OH, there’s an exuberant rhythm and groove at the 1:30 minute mark.   It’s brilliant and invigorating. There’s lot of movement in the tune and before the closing notes, you’ll also hear Cuban-influenced grooves and morphing polyrhythms. These themes introduced in “Agua” are brought back into the fray and utilized throughout the albums eight tracks.

With it’s opening sultry groove and slapped bass lines, Track three “Accretion” has a subtle and sleek atmosphere. It’s my favorite track with syncopated and eruptive movements. This song should be used as a theme and soundtrack for a 20th century spy or sleuth film.

Featuring thunderous piano notes and pathos, the deconstructed melodies and notes of “The Serpentine Path” delicately continue the restless and tossing and turning path of the album.   Autumn leaves don’t fall in a straight line and neither do Ethan Ardelli and his band. Here, they float to and fro, allowing spaces where lesser musicians would stumble and drop through the cracks.

The only minor issue I had with this very enjoyable album was the finale, “Shangri La Pearl.”  A wonderful track to close out the record, it seemed to be drawing to a beautiful conclusion at the seven-minute mark. Then, it resumes for another minute or so.  The artists themselves seemed to agree that it continues too long and the audio fades out while the quartet are still playing.

That being said, the songs, recording, mixing and mastering are all stellar. I also love the cover art featuring a collage by artist Michael Poulton.

You can catch Ardelli’s dynamite quartet on tour across Canada promoting this release through November 24 and purchase the album here.


A bit of a Renaissance man, Steve Murphy is a singer-songwriter, author, and journalist based out of London, Ontario. An avid vinyl collector and audiophile, his personal collection of albums is wide ranging and in the thousands, including four released from his band Westminster Park.

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