Trombonist Scott Thomson has split much of his creative life between Montreal and Toronto. On this series of improvised duets with alto saxophonists, he explores key musical relationships in the two cities, playing with four distinctive musicians: Montrealers Yves Charuest and Jean Derome and Torontonians Karen Ng and John Oswald.
Each duet benefits from longstanding familiarity, encouraging risk and surprise. Thomson embraces trombone traditions from early jazz to free improvisation, expanding his instrument’s potential for vocal mimicry with multiphonics and circular breathing. Each duet is conversational, but each pairing suggests distinct subject matter. Yves Charuest shares the longest episode here at fourteen minutes; the two set out with brief exchanges, sometimes limited to single expressive blasts, and build to Thomson’s wavering, almost submerged long tones set against Charuest’s wails, the music reaching toward trance. Karen Ng launches a bright, minimalist line with special melodic invention, Thomson matching it with muted and burred multiphonics. Jean Derome immediately presses the outer limits, with comic kissing sounds and a muffled echo of Thomson’s own gravelly tones. Eventually Derome’s characteristic fluency asserts itself with high-speed, almost boppish runs. Thomson and John Oswald share a similar Dadaist bent, pressing their instruments’ vocality, from muffled cries to dissonant groans and smothered dialogues. Together, the four pieces celebrate divergent voices and a common empathy.