Jazz is all too often relegated to background-music status, befitting a classy event or a nice dinner out, perhaps, but not music that begs for intent focus. Released today, Tania Gill Quartet’s “Disappearing Curiosities” offers a convincing rebuttal to such a perspective. With this new album, Gill and her musical colleagues serve up nine tracks of surprise and unpredictability. The arc of the album is coherent, while the range among the styles among the songs – even within each tune – is impressive.
“Disappearing Curiosities” leads off with “Marsh Music,” a song that embarks in a seemingly simple way, with Gill playing a solo piano part that meanders through notes and keys, before Lina Allemano’s trumpet leads Gill’s bandmates in making their entrance. While it is more subdued than many of the numbers here, it is a good introduction to what the listener is in for. Then Gill and company launch into “To Montreal,” ramping up the pace, with piano and trumpet playing call and response pieces, as the synth frolics in the background. This piece introduces an experimentation that evokes John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”-era work, while also bearing a resemblance to Sufjan Stevens’ early albums.
Two highlights of the album for me are the tracks “Climate Striker” and “People Gonna Rise Like the Water.” The back-to-back neighbors on the album feel like two sides of the same coin. “Climate Striker” feels like a musical storm rolling in, right from the sonic drizzle that starts it. The storm clouds of rhythm and a windy barrage of piano quickly take over as the trumpet artfully soars and sputters. There is just so much packed into this song that clocks in at two and a half minutes.
That is followed deftly by the only cover song on the album, “People Gonna Rise Like Water,” a similarly compact tune with a quieter insistence that is no less forceful than the preceding tune, in its own way. It brings a minor-key feel that demands the listener take it seriously and treat it with dignity. The piece has the weight of “Wade in the Water,” and the drive of a protest song.
The other tracks bring a rich blend of jubilant (“Jaunty”) and somber tones (“Tangled Branches”). On “Frisbee,” the buoyant bass work of Rob Clutton shines, and “Knocked Over” is a good example of how Nico Dann’s drum-work punctuates and carries along the whole operation.
The Tania Gill Quartet brings a refreshing originality to their “Disappearing Curiosities” project, with an approach that is anything but staid and buttoned-down. It is quirky, fun, and adventurous, asking for your attention and then inviting you to hold on for a whimsical ride, full of surprises.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Mimnagh