Violinist Jesse Zubot’s Drip Audio label has spent the last seven years releasing over thirty strongly produced records that have served as important documents of the improvised music scene in Vancouver. A dip into the back catalogue reveals a wildly interconnected scene—practically every release shares at least one performer with any other release on the label. While recognizable names of international guests like Mats Gustafsson, John Butcher, and Nels Cline may draw visitors in, it is the talents of local musicians like Skye Brooks, JP Carter, Peggy Lee, Tony Wilson, and Zubot himself—to name just a few—that invite you to stay.
Guitarists play a large role in many of these releases. Both Gord Grdina and Tony Wilson lead ensembles with CDs on the label. The Gord Grdina Trio, joined by Gustafsson on Barrel Fire (DA00651), truly burns through a bunch of high-energy tracks recorded live at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. The Tony Wilson Sextet has two releases—Pearls Before Swine (DA00251) and The People Look Like Flowers at Last (DA00482). The first swings with jazz-band charm, while the second layers the jazz-band feel over a lush new jazz arrangement of Benjamin Britten’s Lachrymae. Your Body is Your Prison by Tommy Babin’s Benzene (DA00584) shows off the fantastic interplay between guitarist Chad MacQuarrie and Chad Makela on saxophone in a series of tightly wound jazz improvs, all recorded in one fantastic session. And with The Ultimate Frog (DA00406), LA-based guitarist Jim McAuley provides the label with a particularly rich collection of his duets with the likes of Leroy Jenkins, Ken Filiano, and Nels and Alex Cline. With musicians geographically distant from the rest of the label’s stable, this outlier’s depth of improv and concentration on strings makes it a nice point of reference for many other recordings on Drip Audio.
Two releases from the catalogue have been nominated for Junos—Fond of Tigers’ award-winning Continent & Western (DA00626) and the Inhabitant’s A Vacant Lot (DA00579). The Inhabitants have three albums on the label, including a self-titled debut and The Furniture Moves Underneath (DA00253). The quartet creates beautiful post-Miles post-rock, with JP Carter’s trumpet and Dave Sikula’s guitar echoing over the tight groove of bassist Pete Schmitt and drummer Skye Brooks. Their recordings combine as highlights in a strong field of releases. Not content with the cosmic, Brooks and Carter strip down the effects and are joined by Russell Sholberg as Aeroplane Trio, a tight, textured three-piece that moves from swing to textured improv over the course of their Naranja Ha CD and bundled live DVD (DA00647).
Aeroplane Trio’s more exploratory improv is matched by two other releases, the self-titled Subtle Lip Can (DA00646) and Vivian Houle’s Treize (DA00481). Subtle Lip Can, comprising percussionist Isaiah Ceccarelli, guitarist Bernard Falaise, and violinist Joshua Zubot (Jesse’s brother) create the most elemental improv on the label, reducing their instruments to resonating frequencies, textures, and lowercase detail. On Treize, Vivian Houle works her way through duets with thirteen fellow Vancouver improvisers. Moving from the rip and tear of throat improvisation to wordless hums and poetry-inflected song, Houle matches her partners’ explorations with a fresh suite of vocalizations, showcasing an amazing versatility that pushes the range of her voice.
Appearing on the first duet with Houle, and at least a half dozen other recordings on the Drip Audio label, is the cellist Peggy Lee. New Code (DA00318) sees her as the leader of her own ensemble, the eight-person Peggy Lee Band, with two guitarists and three horns. Her presence on other albums has revealed her ability to bring the cello into the jazz idiom and New Code is a further showcase, as she leads ensemble numbers (including a lovely Bob Dylan number) and a couple of expressive trios and duos.