Is there a specifically Canadian school of free improv? I'm not familiar enough with the scene up there to say, but this disc-a collaboration between the Vancouver-based collective known as Talking Pictures and Seattle pianist Wayne Horvitz-definitely has a distinctive sound. Spiky, smart, with the occasional frisson of free-jazz expressionism (including a hint of blues phraseology by trumpeter Bill Clark), the group improvises with a passionate yet disciplined single-mindedness.
Guitarist Ron Samworth often plays with a controlled skronk and lyricism remindful of Horvitz's guitar-playing brother, Bill. Cellist Peggy Lee is on the level with the best and most creative improvisers on her instrument. Drummer Dylan van der Schyff is a skilled colorist whose strategies range from pointillist understatement to nervous hyperactivity. Clark has both a conventional, linear technique and an ear for timbral contrast. Horvitz reveals himself once again to be a fine, sensitive pianist with a quiet, melodic bent and a refined sense of place within the group.
The group's sound is not New York dirty or Chicago raw. It's an altogether smart, earnest and unapologetically emotional music-the idea of north, circa 2005.