Pushing against the wall of tradition and expectation requires a deep re-examination of intent.
The recent Canadian "Not-Jazz" arousal that at first seemed to be a new synthesis of the jazz thread with fresh currents has, in the past few years, swept away boundaries and broadened concepts into a new pool of inspiration.
From that lush lagoon, a successful brand is emerging: lyrical, listenable and amorphous enough to include Tara Kannangara, Amanda Tosoff, Justin Gray and BadBadNotGood.
Dream Cassette, by runaway saxophoner Joel Miller and complex vocalizer Sienna Dahlen is a new iteration of the individuality of expression being welcomed by audiences who are not totally for or against jazz per se.
The disk is free of extended solo clots, turgid standards, and the restraints imposed by the common over-adulation of formatted American jazz.
This collection, instead, fits the notion of what we like to call an album. It has mad variety, and a collision of values that soon becomes collusion: a rock intro bridges into folk guitar on Streamlined, (a skateboarding anthem); polytonal pastels organically evoke a vast marsh on Tantramar and a fecund rainforest on Pachamama, with only decorative cymbals for percussion; atonal horn assaults laced with Rush-inspired drumming and electronic ribbons on Ta Da!; torchy pleading from Ms. Dahlen on Slow Steps and her girl-crush confessional Corey Heart.
The dreaminess and warmth suggested by the album title manifests itself throughout, but the constant subversion of mood by unique ideas and surprising instrumentation keeps an alertness beaming in the ear, and this tends to create an impression that the music requires renewed attention. So, at the end, after the masterful angular gospel-bop suite entitled No I Got The Blues!, like the titular cassette, you pull it out, flip, and press play again, with no foreseeable exit strategy in mind. As intended.
JOEL MILLER with SIENNA DAHLEN
CELEBRATION OF “DREAM CASSETTE” CD RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, JULY 13 • 9:30 PM • $10
THE REX HOTEL • 194 QUEEN STREET W. TORONTO
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