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Allison Au Quartet: Wander Wonder (Independent)

A review of the third album from the Toronto saxophonist and her quartet

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Allison Au Quartet
Cover of Wander Wonder by Allison Au Quartet

There was a time when “fusion” meant wailing synths and distorted electric guitar, a loud, showy sound that traded the bounce of swing for the on-the-one insistence of funk or rock. These days, though, jazz musicians who draw influences from outside of the postbop continuum don’t trade one set of clichés for another, but simply try to give traditional jazz room to spread its roots and grow in different terrains.

Which brings us to Toronto saxophonist Allison Au and her quartet’s wonderful third album, Wander Wonder. Like many of her generation (she’s 30), Au is as much a composer as an improviser, and her writing tends to balance repeating melodic ideas—bass lines, chordal figures—against complex chord progressions, providing the rhythmic intensity of a hammered riff without locking the soloist into a limited harmonic vocabulary.

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