Moves is the sixth release from Eucalyptus, a group of Toronto-based jazz and improvisation veterans led by alto saxophonist Brodie West (Musicworks 128). The ensemble’s personnel has remained relatively stable over the years, with West, keyboardist Ryan Driver, trumpeter Nicole Rampersaud, bassist Mike Smith, and drummer/percussionists Nick Fraser and Blake Howard remaining from the original lineup. Evan Cartwright has been adding a third layer of drums since the group’s third recording and newcomer Kurt Newman replaces Alex Lukashevsky here on guitar.
All six releases have been relatively concise statements. The first appeared ten years ago and clocked in at about thirty minutes; Moves, their lengthiest to date, is thirty-five minutes. There has also been a consistency in style though time, with tasteful and catchy compositions set in a variety of jazzy styles from lounge to free.
“Infinity Bananas” opens Moves with a minimalist trio feel, starting with a cornucopia of percussive hits amounting to something akin to a Latin rhythm, accompanied by a single note bass line and brief musings from West. This slowly evolves to include crashing percussion and longer lines from West as the rest of the band contribute colourful punches. “Dust in the Wind” (no relation to the pop song that shares its title) is a klangfarbenmelodie where various instruments tackle the theme and variations of a central motif. “Cuckoo Birds” has a free-jazz vibe held together by the repeating figure of a two-note vamp over which the musicians play. In contrast, “It’s in a Move” has a lounge jazz feel with bossa nova percussion and sweet soloing. There are two gentle ballads: “Rose Manor,” with a lilting melody mildly reminiscent of Dave Holland’s “Conference of the Birds,” and “Lookie,” which features a flowing sax solo within a lush arrangement. Completing the seven tracks is “Snapdragon Hop,” a churning number with a touch of surf-style guitar and clavinet drenched in reverb, reminiscent of the punk-lounge jazz music of the early Contortions.
This album overflows with strong song ideas packed into tightly knit arrangements with all soloing in support of the melodies. Despite these straightforward building blocks, there is a disorienting quality to the tunes that attests not only to the sly skill of the players, but also to their experience as a unit which encourages subtle digressions.