Avi Granite 6 – Orbit (2018)

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As a New York-based guitarist from Toronto, Avi Granite spends a lot of time between these two cities, as well as between several ensembles that he leads. A few years ago, we profiled the maiden release by Granite with his NY-based Verse band, which featured jazz luminaries like Ralph Alessi and Owen Howard.

Granite has since turned his attention back to Toronto and his Avi Granite 6 sextet, a band that hadn’t made a record in a decade. But Granite has taken his time assembling a new set of tunes for a combo that is capable of turning intuition and telepathy into a vehicle for taking his songs to places the leader could not imagine on his own. His 6 is comprised of himself, a rhythm section of Neal Davis (bass) and Ted Warren (drums) and a horn section of Jim Lewis (trumpet), Tom Richards (trombone) and Peter Lutek (reeds).

One thing that becomes readily apparent about Orbit is that it involves a lot of trust among these six to keep these songs on course, because Granite leaves a lot unscripted for his band to thrive upon within his compositions.

Those loose parameters are always in the service of his ideas that make this sextet stand out. For instance, the way Granite interacts with the three-man horn section is a truly fresh approach: unison lines with one or more of them, improvising freely alongside and mirroring their level of intensity all the same. This all happens on “Undo Process,” which at just under five minutes still seems to go by too quickly.

“When The View Became The way” starts with tautness the emanates from Davis’ cyclical bass line and Warren’s assertive drums, but once the horns recede, Granite softly plays his thoughtful patterns, pushing back against the insistent pulse. “Like A Magazine (For Paul Motian)” is harmonic beauty delivered through multiple streams of trombone, trumpet and soprano sax, and the imaginative arrangement makes the band sound ‘bigger’ than it really is.

Even the high-energy pieces are guided by imaginative unpredictability. A klezmer blast lifts off “Over And Out” – Ancestral Willkie Talkie,” presaging Davis’ bass ruminations and a windup back to the initial energy. Syncopated patterns between Granite and the horn trio underpin “Knocking On The Door” before Lutek and Richards get up and stretch out for a spell. Granite sets “I Enjoy Your Haircut” into motion by a dynamic rhythm on guitar and the songs seems to burst out of its seams from there before a tactical regroup. Richards, Lewis and Lutek manage to play with abandon and stay inside of Granite’s chart for almost the entirety of “Hortez The Chihuahua.” And a six-way musical chatter ensues for “Ants To The Ocean,” shifting from chaos to calm.

A somber “Critical Eddie” represents a change in mood, but that doesn’t mean Warren can’t make some hay on the drums with a momentum-building solo right underneath Granite’s soft strums.

In short, you know that great musicianship and creativity are always in store for Avi Granite 6’s strong return but little else can be anticipated, and that’s the main joy of Orbit. Orbit is now available on Granite’s Pet Mantis Records.


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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