Viikon Teos 79: Kate Wyatt – Artifact (2022)


Onko tässä vuoden 2022 paras jazz-levy? Täytyy myöntää, että olen aika puolueellinen; muusikot ovat ystäviäni, mutta toisaalta Montréalin verevän jazz-skenen keskeisiä soittajia: täkäläisiä mäkysiä, herraloita ja eskoloita. Kate Wyatt, joka on vuosikymmenet vaikuttanut tärkeänä soittajana ja opettajana, sai viimein aikaiseksi julkaista ensimmäisen soololevynsä, apunaan suosikkimuusikkonsa. Soittajat harjoittelivat korona-ajan yhdessä ja tuloksena syntyi koko joukko projekteja, joiden joukossa tämä on suosikkini.

Sain kunnian kirjoittaa levyyn liner notet, jotka julkaisen nyt teosesittelyn sijaan. Joudutte siis lukemaan ameriikankieltä. Koettakaa jaksaa, mutta nauttikaa levystä!

The Magical Realism of Kate Wyatt

In Haruki Murakami’s novel 1Q84, the protagonists enter a parallel world with two moons in the night sky. A storyworld which at first glance had appeared to be mundane gains a magical sheen that lures the reader to delve in ever deeper. You can experience something like this on a Thursday night in Montréal in June 2022 when Kate Wyatt launches her debut album at the Dièse Onze jazz club. After a frustrating day at the office, you sit back with a sigh and order yourself a New England IPA. And gradually, that magical glow begins to build as you let yourself enter the music.

There’s a thing that Kate does with her shoulders when she gets down to it. Watch for that special moment during her solo; a wavelike motion washes over those shoulders from left to right and right to left as the groove intensifies and she begins to weave sweet, angular polyphonies between her two hands. Such amalgamation of intellect and passion is what sets jazz apart as an art form.

This is a debut album that sounds like everything but a debut album. Kate has been a mainstay of the Montréal jazz scene for decades; she arrived long ago and stayed. A witty, down-to-earth character armed with a huge smile, a contagious laugh, fast intellect and an impeccable musical taste, Kate is the sort of piano player that delivers the goods with loads of personality. Eschewing self-promotion in favor of rolling up her sleeves and just playing the music, Kate made us wait, arguably for much too long.

And what an album it is: A magisterial, meditative sequence of original compositions and a choice standard by Billy Strayhorn. The compositions lay deep melodic roots while harmonies soar in intellectual heights. “Antepenultimate” (“760 SAT word, baby”, as West Wing’s Josh Lyman said it) conjures up the image of a giant space construct of alien origin, which, like the mystical object Rama in an Arthur C. Clarke’s scifi novel, escapes the solar system before I get to unlock its secrets. The spirit of Thelonius Monk smiles behind the witty “Short Stories”. The tune plays with the juxtaposition of threes and fours. Its AABA structure is an uneven 13-bar sequence, a pair of three bars, followed by four bars and concluded with three. In their solos, trumpetist Lex French and Kate toy with quadruplets, juxtaposing groups of four notes against three in polyrhythm.

Lue myös: Levyarvio: Peter Gabriel: s/t (1980)

The musicians on the album are all leaders and there is deep sympathy between the players. Just listen to the way they comp. At the very beginning of the album, drummer Jim Doxas immediately picks up the staccato notes that open Lex French solo’s in the melancholy ballad “Artifact”, and caresses them in the snare drum. Jim is a telepathic presence throughout the album. A sensitive soul with an enormous heart, Jim stays in that constant dialogue with soloists which allows a great drummer to elevate and inspire a colleague.

Like the violin, trumpet is an instrument that endows a master player with an emotional range, comparable to that in the human voice. New Zealand -born Lex French is a cool cat – he is known for wearing a leopard design blazer on stage. From the subtle flavors of individual tones, all the way to the architectural structure of his solos, Lex is in complete command from individual word choices to his entire narrative. When the trumpet enters, I feel myself relax: Lex knows the way.

Adrian Vedady’s double bass anchors the music. Kate’s husband, her co-parent of teenagers, and a long-time musical collaborator plays in a deep, mellow tone that lays the bedrock for everyone to go exploring. Much of the beauty of “Underwater Chant” comes from the slow rocking of the bass. As a soloist, Adrian is a philosopher who explores melodies and arranges them into thoughtful passages that command attention. For instance, when Adrian solos on “Duet” (which like ‘Short Stories’, he co-wrote with Kate), I wish I had my note pad handy so that I could start transcribing.

In comping other soloists, Kate is constantly attentive, and her solos often begin as a commentary on Lex’s concluding ideas. And man, those solos… I hear a bit of Monk here and there, some classical technique in the polyphonies, maybe a touch of Stravinsky or Bartok in the harmonies. But the fact is that Kate sounds like Kate. Playful, contemplative, probing, intense, passionate; all contained in a deep pocket. Those who hear her tend to come back for more.

I congratulate you on the magical journey that you are about to undertake. Dim the lights, turn up the volume and let the music take you to a world with two or more moons in the sky. Oh, and Kate tells me 1Q84 is one of her favorite books. Figures.

Kirjoittaja: SAKU MANTERE

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