Jazz Eh, The Whole Note
Review: Convergence Ensemble "Saskatoon" (TRP-017)
And Hat & Beard "Reflections" (TRP-018)
BY: Stuart Broomer

Since migrating from Vancouver more than a decade ago, guitarist Ken Aldcroft has become an essential figure in the Toronto improvised music scene, producing performance series and acting as one of the founders of AIMToronto, an association of improvisers. Documenting his own work on his Trio Records since 1997, Aldcroft has just released two contrasting sessions.

Aldcroft's Convergence Ensemble is his principal group, a long-standing quintet that has been a laboratory for his developing compositional approach. Saskatoon (TRP-017) was recorded at the Bassment in 2007, so it's clearly an old performance with enduring significance. Alto saxophonist Evan Shaw, trombonist Scott Thomson, bassist Wes Neal and drummer Joe Sorbara share Aldcroft's commitment to the group, and it's apparent in every instant of this music, a consistent collective creation on Aldcroft's themes. "Our Hospitality" cleverly integrates free jazz, swing and instrumental click languages.

For sheer playfulness, there's Aldcroft's duo with drummer Dave Clark, Hat and Beard: The Music of Thelonious Monk. Their second all-Monk program, Reflections (TRP-018), extends Monk's own assertive rhythms, clashing phrases and unlikely chord changes. The approach, with Clark's explosive, weirdly precise cacophony and Aldcroft's acid-toned minimalism, may owe as much to the members of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band as to Monk himself. It's all a delight, but "Pannonica" and "Monk's Dream" are stand-outs.