Mark Segger Sextet – The Beginning (2011)

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Debut albums can often be fun to explore, since you’re not just exploring the music, but the artist, too. They’re funner still when the artist bolts out the gate with his/her own unique plan of attack instead of the timid, first steps of an artist who’s still feeling his way around by mimicking his influences. Canadian drummer, composer and bandleader Mark Segger took the former route for this first album released just this past March, The Beginning.

Segger arrived in Toronto from Edmonton just three years ago but carrying with him strong backgrounds in jazz, improvised music and indie rock, he soon made his mark. Heading up a six piece band of like-minded, young adventurous souls who are also major players in Toronto’s overall music scene, the Mark Segger Sextet might be called “avant chamber jazz,” but the avant part of this doesn’t mean “free” or atonal”….just different, in a refreshing way. Segger’s eight compositions mights great use of instruments at his disposal, playing them off each other, around each other and in unison. His approach can be likened to Dave Holland’s great small ensembles or John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet, with just a touch of Zappa brash, wit and unpredictability. The Matt Wilson of the North, if you will.

Consisting of Jim Lewis (trumpet), Tania Gill (piano, melodica), Heather Segger (trombone), Chris Willes (tenor sax, clarinet) and Andrew Downing (bass), Segger has his three horn lineup sound more like three individual voices than a conventional horn section, making this combo sound lighter and maneuver more nimbly than what the line-up suggests. Segger himself isn’t an overbearing drummer, but he moves things along with tasteful stylings, paying as much attention to tone and timbre as he does tempo.

When the idea is to be idiosyncratic, you would expect every song to be discreet from each other, and on The Beginning, they are. A deceptively childlike sequence of notes pace “Conversation In A Crowd,” stated in variations at the same time by each of the performers. Gill’s melodica finds its place amongst the hustle and bustle of horns operating like alternating pistons on “Steam Engine.” The multi-faceted “My Dog Has Fleas” (Youtube below) features standout performances from Willes and Heather Segger. Lewis’ turn to shine comes on the next cut, the intrepid “Part III” (Downing’s bass line on this song is like a puzzle waiting to be solved). “Soca You Play It” carries on more like a big band tune at times, building tension and releasing it throughout the song. The track “The Beginning” serves as the ending track, a mostly serene, hopeful melody stripped down to its peaceful essence, similar to what Miles Davis did with Joe Zawinul’s “In A Silent Way.”

Segger’s fearless start in The Beginning bodes well for his middle and ending parts of his recording career. It also sends a forceful message to jazz fans: don’t overlook the Toronto scene.

The Beginning is by 18th Note Records and can be purchased here. Visit Mark Segger’s website.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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