Nick Fraser is a huge name in the canadian jazz scene. His exquisitely modern drum chops never cease to take risks making him a force to be reckoned with in the live setting. On his new album, Starer, Fraser takes his ensemble through a quick moving collage of various jazz sound aesthetics culminating in a release that values contrast without dwelling on specific ideas for too long.
One of the standout aspects of the album is it’s quick-hitting nature, a rare quality in the landscape of modern jazz. Although the album includes one song of over 10 minutes in length, Fraser wastes little time in his idea development, quickly moving from minimalist beginnings to high-energy final blows. The opening track “minimalism/416-538-7149” begins with quiet, oscillating plucked strings with Fraser himself playing a bit of a solo amongst the rhythm section. Eventually, saxophone player Tony Malaby joins in along with other sparring melodic moments from the rest of the ensemble.
Fraser’s drum chops are on display constantly. His textural approach to tom playing outlines the melodic developments perfectly without becoming too heavy. Also, he seems to have a true knack for rhythmic articulation in a non-specified rhythmic space. The album, as a whole, simply moves forward very well never remaining in stagnant, open-spaces for too long.
The group uses the two string musicians quite well. Along with Fraser’s drum conception, Andrew Downing and Rob Clutton add an interesting texture that matches the singing nature of Tony Malaby’s saxophone phrasing. Also, the idea of texture is reinforced by the ability of the ensemble to include both plucked Bass lines and elongated cello lines in the same space, which makes the absence of piano an afterthought.
Overall, Starer seemed to be a very well put together album on my first listen. Fraser’s ensemble takes risks and maintains a heightened sense of musicality throughout resulting in a sleek, modern release with little room for excess.