One of the linchpins of Montréal’s Musique Actuelle potpourri, bassist Nicolas Caloia is, underneath it all, a jazz musician, and this session shows off his mastery of the idiom. With the group Tilting, he elaborates his take on jazz by utilizing the talents of fellow travellers baritone saxophonist Jean Derome, pianist Guillaume Dostaler, drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli, and — on one track each — bass clarinetist Lori Freedman and alto saxophonist Yves Charuest. What that means is that Caloia’s eight compositions tilt towards the freer side of free bop, without ever abandoning underlying rhythms.
With Caloia’s bass sonority directing from behind, and Derome’s bulky low-pitched smears upfront, the band still works effectively to ensure that weightiness doesn’t turn into logginess. Dostaler is the key here, whether he’s outputting processional cadenzas or comping decorously to knit together seemingly disparate parts. Holy Seven Fields, the most traditional of the tunes, has a heavy Charles Mingus influence, with spirited piano timbres pushing Derome’s slurps upwards to middle-register expression.
The title of Apart (for Conlon Nancarrow) must be an inside joke, since Nancarrow’s super-swift pianism isn’t referred to at all; instead, Apart is made memorable by a straightahead bass solo. “Wren” balances on Caloia’s fluid continuum as dramatic baritone smears take centre stage.
Unsurprisingly, Freedman’s bass clarinet adds some needed buoyancy when harmonized with Derome’s sax on Flox, together attaining a climax of tremolo vibrations. As for Charuest, his peeps and judders on Locked are backed by spiccato string-pulls from the bassist that create the most dissonant track. Here, a frenzied reed counterpoint of shrieked notes finally reassembles amoeba-like into a shimmering whole.
Tilting may be the band’s name, but it’s evident that the only direction it leans towards is one made up of unique compositions and performances.