Allison Au Quartet
Wander Wonder - (Self-Released)
http://www.allisonau.com/ @allisonaumusic |
Toronto based saxophonist Allison Au is a woman who has command of her artistry in the most sublime sense. She is most certainly one to keep your ears open for in the future.
The Allison Au Quartet is no stranger to awards, from a Juno award to Grand Prix de Jazz, to Sting Ray Rising Star, and the accolades just keep piling up. The attention helps to define her excellence but doesn’t necessarily outline her imagination and creativity, which appears to be boundless. Wander Wonder is a well-crafted and satisfying album to listen to.
Allison Au creates a layered sonic pallet that the quartet can really give dimension to. That’s where the magic lies, in the relationship and trust between the band members. They are: Allsion Au – alto saxophone, Todd Pentney - Piano, Prophet Rev2, Jon Maharaj – bass and electric bass, Fabio Ragnelli – drums.
Allison artfully arranges space for everyone and they weave in and out seamlessly, starting with the atmospheric “The Valley” which only serves to whet the appetite for what’s to come. It puts pianist Todd Pentney front and centre and gives a glimpse of the relationship you’ll find between the piano and saxophone on this album.
“The Rest Is Up to You” has a thread of Latin influence and “Morning” invites you into tranquillity. The album ends with a thoughtful and introspective ballad called “A Trick Of the Moonlight.”
It’s exciting to think what Allison Au will do in the future because the word “boundaries” is not in her musical vocabulary.
By Shelley Gummeson
Saxophonist, composer, arranger, and bandleader Allison Au, pianist Todd Pentney, bassist Jon Maharaj, and drummer Fabio Ragnelli were nominated for a Juno for their third album, 2019’s Wander Wonder, but that’s not surprising; they’ve been racking up Canadian jazz awards for half a decade now.
Other honours they’ve received include the TD Grand Prix de Jazz, the Stingray Rising Stars Award, four prestigious scholarships, several other Juno nominations, and a "Best Jazz Album of The Year: Group" for Forest Grove in 2016. Au was also included in CBC Music’s 2019 list of the 35 best Canadian jazz artists under the age of 35.
Au grew up in a music-loving family in Toronto, listening to her father’s diverse music collection. Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nat “King” Cole, and Louis Armstrong left an impression on her at an early age, and her later influences include Charlie Parker, Miguel Zenon, and Canadian great Seamus Blake. She graduated from the Humber College Music Program, where she studied Jazz and Contemporary Music with musical greats Hilario Duran, Luis Mario Ochoa, and Pat LaBarbera.
Au’s playing has been compared to the abstract conversational style of Wayne Shorter. DownBeat Magazine’s Dave Cantor refers to Au’s “tender tone” and credits the quartet with knowing their jazz history while expanding its possibilities. J.D. Considine (Jazz Times) applauds how the group transcends limits and “give(s) traditional jazz room to spread its roots and grow in different terrains.”
By Catherine Fisher
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