Lift Off is a collection of eight compositions by drummer Mark Segger, recorded by his sextet with trumpeter Jim Lewis, trombonist Heather Saumer, reed-player Peter Lutek (tenor saxophone and clarinet), keyboardist Tania Gill (piano and melodica), and bassist Rob Clutton. Recorded in Toronto following the group’s return from a European tour in 2016, the album was inspired by sudden relocations in space, time, or mind. Allusions to other music abound, yet concessions to expectation are few and short-lived. Surprise bursts of swinging tutti, time-defying shifts into free playing, and windy blasts that interrupt compositional flow are typical.
Repeat hearings of Lift Off are rewarded by revealing clear structural concepts. “Cluttertone News,” for example, features Clutton’s bass working through a spellbinding solo, rich with jagged figures, noisy extended techniques, and glissandi, seemingly indpendent of the carefully orchestrated harmonic bed perhaps inspired by Segger’s cited influence, Mel Lewis.
Similarly, a close listen to the title track reveals textures teeming with life. The track’s swarming tutti comprises seemingly infinite small things from each group member, any one of which is mesmerizing in its own way. Throughout the album, the recording and mixing bring this activity out with fantastic sensitivity.
 “One Note” takes Segger’s textural experimentation a step further by expanding its titular idea to track-length: wildly diverse timbres give a compelling sense of a single pitch being weathered by the likes of breathy articulations, pitch bends, and Segger’s omnipresent, gradually emerging, rubbed percussion. The whole movement comes unexpectedly, is a welcome relocation, and is perfectly countered by the two remaining tracks.
The Mark Segger Sextet’s playing and Segger’s compositional ideas express an uncanny, joyous intertwining of composition and performance on this, the group’s second release.