Dylan Van Der Schyff: The Definition of a Toy

This CD combines the talents of Vancouver-based drummer Dylan van der Schyff and trumpeter Brad Turner, American saxophonist (and resident of the Netherlands) Michael Moore, German pianist Achim Kaufmann and American bassist Mark Helias. The group’s far-flung nature definitely doesn’t work against it.

Turner and Moore may live half a world apart, but they play the thorniest unison lines as if they lived next door to one another and rehearsed together every day. Both are rather light-toned abstractionists with a lyrical bent. Moore excels at evading pitch relationships that imply tonal centers-in essence, he’s so “out” that he’s “in.” Kaufmann shares that quality and is a similarly graceful, intelligent presence. Van der Schyff has a gentle touch and a malleable way with time, which makes him a good match for the exacting and hyperagile Helias.

There’s a pronounced “cool jazz” sensibility to The Definition of a Toy. It rarely comes to a full boil, yet the conceptual velocity runs at full throttle (and there’s enough Tony Williams in van der Schyff’s playing to keep things taut). Its strength is an abundance of smarts and a fully developed group identity. This is exceedingly well played and executed-a nearly pristine amalgam of free improvisation and composition, of jazz and contemporary-classical elements.