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Dolf Mulder, Vital, no. 1192, July 15, 2019

This orchestra was started in 1992 on the initiative of Montréal-based composer, double bassist and bandleader Nicolai Caloia. He is into improvised as well as composed music and the combination of both, for small and very big line-ups. With his big-sized Ratchet Orchestra, he wants to explore improvised ‘chamber jazz’. For the Hemlock project in 2012 over 30 performers were part of the orchestra. For Coco Swirl he chooses for a smaller crew. But with following 19 musicians we can still speak of an ensemble of big band proportions: Lori Freedman (clarinets), Jean Derome (flutes, baritone saxophone), Yves Charuest (alto saxophone), Aaron Leaney (tenor saxophone), Jason Sharp (bass saxophone), Ellwood Epps (trumpet), Craig Pedersen (trumpet), Scott Thomson (trombone), Jacques Gravel (contrabass trombone), Julie Richard (tuba), Joshua Zubot (violin), James Annett (viola), Jean René (viola), Guillaume Dostaler (piano), Ken Doolittle (percussion), Isaiah Ceccarelli (drum set) and Nicolas Caloia (double bass, conductor). So we are in the company of some very pronounced and experienced players who bring in a lot of ideas and experience and make this a very lively and enjoyable recording. Caloia delivered the compositions. The last one, Before is After, is a suite in six parts. Term ‘improvised chamber jazz’, describes very well what he is aiming for. Jazz and improvisation make an organic whole with features of academic composed music. His intelligent compositions are of fascinating complexity and relevance. They make up an ideal starting point for excellent and expressive improvising. Many intriguing moments pass by in this eclectic universe that is bursting of musical ideas. The instrumentation is very diverse and colourful assuring fine contrasts like the one in Blood between the blowers and the experimental electric guitar played by Shalabi. This is more than an excellent release in a transparent recording.

This is more than an excellent release in a transparent recording.