Quoan – Fine Dining (2018)

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A West Coast-meets-East Coast jazz affair, the quintet Quoan combines the L.A. horns of Brian Walsh (clarinets) and Daniel Rosenboom (trumpet, flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet) with the NYC-based rhythm section of Mark Ferber (drums) and Sam Minaie (drums). Regardless of their locale, these guys are in the exact same place musically for this adventurous project. Fine Dining (Orenda Records) is one of those small combo occasions where there’s no piano or guitar to comp behind the front line horns, which typically sets up unique challenges. For Quoan, it doesn’t even seem to be a challenge, these four are thriving without that fifth member.

But what makes Fine Dining get a little extra out of the chordless configuration is that with nearly every song is a different way to exploit that void. “The Last” flirtatiously toys with microtonality, Minaie’s bass effectively setting the melodic parameters inside of which Rosenboom and Walsh run around with building momentum. Minaie’s aside with Ferber supporting launches “Demicolon,” settling into a groove that goes down a staggered path once Walsh and Rosenboom enter the picture, and they take listeners on rides of linear, distinctive improvisation. The title track is spacious and loose, with Ferber casting about with a signature light touch, Minaie playing arco, and Rosenboom sometimes contrasting Walsh’s bottom-heavy contrabass clarinet with a plunged trumpet.

“Moon Cage” is a waltz collectively constructed by Walsh, Rosenboom and Minaie, leaving Ferber free to leave behind splotches of timbral colors, as the others leave behind light footprints. “Fist” is concentrated, saucy abstraction, assurance that despite the high art on display here, no one is taking themselves too seriously. “Capitol Absurdity” is the straightest jazz of the set, bopping and swinging with veracity. Since there aren’t any chordal instruments, the front line is still afforded more freedom and they take advantage of that.

The album is sprinkled throughout with these short, one-on-one improvs that further chases away any semblance of sameness. “Shunyata” is a duet between Rosenboom and Ferber, while “Gnomish” pits Walsh (on contrabass clarinet) against the drummer. “Witch’s Butter” is the most creative of the small batch, as this meeting of Minaie’s bass and Walsh’s contrabass clarinet mashes together two bottom-toned instruments that sound very much like each other. Another instant improv is “Legislation,” a twenty-two second blast from Rosenboom, Minaie and Ferber.

“Braids and Brooms” ends the program wistfully, where individual expression is channeled to convey mood instead of hot licks.

Quoan’s Fine Dining is a feast of so many ways two horns and a rhythm section can generate excitement and keep us guessing what happens next.


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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