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Fraser, Nick Quartet: If There Were No Opposites (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

First recording in 2012 as a trio with saxophonist Tony Malaby as a guest, 9 years later Toronto drummer Nick Fraser's quartet with Malaby as a permanent member, Rob Clutton on double bass and Andrew Downing on cello show their long collaboration's strength in a set of improvisations plus compositions for Decidedly Jazz Danceworks and the DJD production, Juliet & Romeo.

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product information:

UPC: 752156103424

Label: ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd
Catalog ID: ezz-thetics 1034
Squidco Product Code: 31018

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: Austria
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Baldwin Street Sound, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in March, 2019, by Fedge.


Nick Fraser-drums

Tony Malaby-tenor saxophone, soprano saxophones

Andrew Downing-cello

Rob Clutton-double bass

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Artist Biographies:

"Nick Fraser has been an active and engaging presence in the Toronto new jazz and improvised music community since he moved there from Ottawa in 1995. He has worked with a veritable "who's who" of Canadian jazz and improvised music including Justin Haynes, Mike Murley, Rich Underhill, P.J. Perry, Phil Dwyer, Michael Snow, John Oswald, Andrew Downing, Jean Martin, Christine Duncan, Lina Allemano, Quinsin Nachoff, Dave Restivo, Jim Vivian, David Braid, Ryan Driver, David Occhipinti, William Carn, Nancy Walker, Kieran Overs, Kelly Jefferson, John Geggie, Scott Thomson, Marilyn Lerner, David Mott, Lori Freedman, Jean Derome, Ron Samworth and Kirk MacDonald.

In addition, he has had the opportunity to perform and/or record with such international artists as Tony Malaby, Michael Moore, Bobby Shew, Donny McCaslin, Marilyn Crispell, Anthony Braxton, Joe McPhee, William Parker, Jean-Luc Ponty, Bela Fleck, Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Wynton Marsalis, David Binney, Steve Turre, Matt Welch, Bill Carrothers and Bill Mays. Nick's recorded works as a leader include Owls in Daylight (1997), Nick Fraser and Justin Haynes are faking it (2004) and Towns and Villages (2013).

For 10 years, he co-led the co-operative group Drumheller with Brodie West, Rob Clutton, Eric Chenaux and Doug Tielli, who released four critically acclaimed CDs between 2005 and 2013. Other projects that occupy Nick regularly are Ugly Beauties (with Marilyn Lerner and Matt Brubeck), Peripheral Vision, the Lina Allemano Four and Titanium Riot.

Nick is a founding member of The Association of Improvising Musicians of Toronto, a non-profit organization dedicated to the Toronto improvising community."

-Nick Fraser Website (

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"Tony Malaby (born January 12, 1964 in Tucson, Arizona) is a jazz tenor saxophonist. Malaby moved to New York City in 1995 and has played with several notable jazz groups, including Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band, Mark Helias's Open Loose, Fred Hersch's Trio + 2 and Walt Whitman project, and bands led by Mario Pavone, Chris Lightcap, Bobby Previte, Tom Varner, Marty Ehrlich, Angelica Sanchez, Mark Dresser, and Kenny Wheeler. Other collaborators have included Tom Rainey, Christian Lillinger, Ben Monder, Eivind Opsvik, Nasheet Waits, and Michael Formanek. His first album as a co-leader was Cosas with Joey Sellers."

-Wikipedia (

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"Andrew Downing is a Toronto based double bass player, cellist, composer and educator born in London, Ontario in 1973. He plays primarily in the creative jazz scene in Canada, but also performs classical chamber music, improvised music, folk and roots music, and world music. He practices the unusual craft of tuning his bass in fifths an octave lower than a cello. His teachers include Jack Winn, Dave Young, Don Thompson, Shauna Rolston and Joel Quarrington.

His own projects span a wide variety of styles and practices. Most recently, he has begun a collaboration in İstanbul, Turkey with ud (Turkish lute) player Güç Başar Gülle that incorporates Ottoman Classical music in a collection of new compositions for ud, cello, percussion and kaval (a Turkish folk instrument). Their first album Anahtar will be released in October of 2013. He also has a collaborative multi-media project with Canadian songwriter John Southworth and visual artist Yesim Tosuner called Easterween featuring songs written by John and arranged by Andrew for his 7-piece chamber ensemble. He also leads his chamber-jazz ensemble Melodeon, which plays live scores for silent films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Phantom of the Opera (with choir), Maciste in Hell, Impossible Voyage and The Shock.

As a composer, Andrew has written pieces for Nordic Folk group Ensemble Polaris, banjo player Jayme Stone, The Vancouver Bach Choir, Ensemble Meduse, Toca Loca and The Prince George Symphony, and has written arrangements for Patricia O'Callaghan, The Gryphon Trio, The Annex Quartet and The Art of Time Ensemble.

He has won two Juno awards, one for his own recording Blow The House Down with his former group Great Uncles of the Revolution, and one with the Vancouver-based group Zubot and Dawson. He has also won two West Coast Music Awards, a Socan Award, and the Grand Prix de Jazz from the Montreal Jazz Festival.

Andrew currently teaches double bass, composition and improvisation at the University of Toronto and has taught at Wilfred Laurier University, the Banff Centre's Jazz Workshop and the Creative Music Workshop in Halifax."

-Andrew Downing Website (

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"Rob Clutton is a composer/performer with two solo bass recordings, Dubious Pleasures and Suchness Monster, on the Rat-Drifting label. In 2015 the Cluttertones released Ordinary Joy, a recording of original compositions, on the Healing Power label. Earlier independent releases of original compositions include Holstein Dream Pageant and Tender Buttons. Rob has participated in collaborative projects including Handslang, This Moment, Drumheller, Clutton/Michelli/West, Kavli, and Sweet Session. As a side person, other long- term projects have included the Steve Koven Trio, NOJO, John Millard and Happy Day, Lina Allemano's Titanium Riot, the Ryan Driver Sextet, Pete Johnston's See Through 2, Tim Posgate's Jazzstory, Nick Fraser Quartet featuring Tony Malaby, Ronda Rindone's Quorum, the David Mott Quintet, Bill Grove Quartet, Mark Segger Sextet, AimToronto Orchestra, Shurum Burum Jazz Circus, Faint Praise, and the Winged Marsupials. Touring with these and other projects has included Europe, Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Ecuador, The Caribbean, and Japan."

-Rob Clutton Website (

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track listing:

1. Improvisation (Part 1) 2:44

2. Sketch #50 3:39

3. Shoe Dance 4:47

4. Table 49, The Rex Hotel, Toronto 9:28

5. The Bulldog And The Capricorn 9:03

6. The Fashion Show 7:38

7. Improvisation (Part 2) 5:08
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Composition. Improvisation. In recent times, the relationship between the two has been deliberated, often in binary terms, to the point of exhaustion. But if we shut up and discuss them no further, we might as well give up talking about jazz, since the point where the two methods connect is to the music what flint and steel are to campfires. Without that starter, you have no blaze.

Based in Toronto since 1995, Nick Fraser has learned jazz from both inside and out. He's drummed with free-leaning musicians such as Lina Allemano and Marilyn Crispell; as a longtime participant in the Ottawa Jazz Festival's jam sessions, he's kept the groove for Joe Lovano, Wynton Marsalis, and countless other establishment jazz figures. His heart lies with the unscripted moment. "I've always loved the act of improvising," avows Nick Fraser, "and the more improvised parts of jazz music are usually my favorite parts."

But that doesn't mean that he neglects the rest. Fraser has composed for every band he's led or co-led. He has also adapted his material to the rigorous requirements of the Decidedly Jazz Dance-works, a Calgary-based dance company directed by Kimberly Cooper. A couple of the pieces on If There Were No Opposites, the quartet's fourth album, were adapted from compositions for DJD productions. But while the original versions of "Shoe Dance" and "The Fashion Show" had to adhere to rigid timing requirements in order to coordinate with the rest of the stage production, the quartet lets the music flow in more free-wheeling fashion.

The quartet first recorded in 2012, and its personnel has never changed. New Jersey-based saxophonist Tony Malaby was originally billed as a special guest, but now he is simply one of the band. This is not a demotion, but an acknowledgement of how essential he is to the group's sound. By turns agile and burly, his playing reliably turns up the heat on whatever the rest of the ensemble is cooking. Says Fraser, "There's a sense I get when I play with Tony of him taking the entire band on his back and saying, 'Here we go!'"

Cellist Andrew Downing and bassist Rob Clutton are fellow Canadians, and Fraser has long histories with both of them. Clutton has been an associate for over twenty years. "I've never made an album as a leader with a bass player other than Rob." Downing, who also plays with Fraser in the Lina Allemano Four, could have been the second. "He plays bass, he plays cello, he composes, he plays classical music, jazz, various folk musics and more, but never in a merely 'professional' way. He is always deeply musically and emotionally invested in the music he makes." Enamored with the sound of Bill Dixon's Vade Mecum records and Ornette Coleman's final quartet, Fraser originally invited him to play the bull fiddle, but Downing said that he'd rather play cello, and the way he toggles between melodic and rhythmic roles while occupying his own pitch zone constantly validates that decision. Fraser has also drummed on recent recordings led by both Clutton and Downing, and their collective rapport facilitates the quartet's countercurrents of flow and undertow.

Close listening and empathy enable the quartet to find a gravitational center during the album's opening moments. "Improvisation (Part 1)" represents new ground for the quartet. "This band doesn't normally play entirely improvised music, but at the end of the session, we decided to." A thicket of pizzicato strings and sparse stickwork rustles around Malaby' coarse, probing tenor, ultimately cohering into a turbulent stream. Soprano and cello take the melody of "Sketch #50" at a breakneck pace; as the band slaloms through its switchbacks, different instruments re-introduce it, as if to renew a shared sense of direction. Here and elsewhere, Fraser's drumming expands the sound field, forming a constantly changing perimeter that reflects the band's energy back into the music. "I usually have the least prescribed material of any of us," he confesses; instead, he completes the music as it happens.

Fraser originally wrote "Shoe Dance" for the DJD production, Juliet & Romeo. "The choreography featured 4 or 5 dancers with shoes on their hands, like puppets. It's a boogaloo, inspired by two of my favorite drummers - Billy Mintz and Paul Motian." "Table 49, The Rex Hotel, Toronto" is the 49th in Fraser's series of compositional sketches, but the name also applies to the table where musicians congregate at the longest- running jazz club in Toronto.

The title of "The Bulldog and the Capricorn" derives from nicknames for Malaby and Kris Davis. But the tune's call and response dynamic, with quizzical cello-soprano unisons greeting Clutton's solemn bass statements, can be taken as a structural reflection of another meaning embedded in the title. Explains Fraser, "A 'Mexican Bulldog' is a margarita with an open beer bottle upside down in it, so it fills up with beer as you drink it. It's a challenge to drink, although you can always go with a straw if you're having trouble." "The Fashion Show" has been in the quartet's book for a while. In this performance, a couple minutes of free improvisation that takes cues from Clutton's rough-timbred bowing resolve into a tense negotiation of the winding theme. The album ends where it began; "Improvisation (Part 2)" is actually the second half of the performance that opened the album."-Bill Meyer, Berwyn, January 2021

Related Categories of Interest:

Hat Art
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Canadian Composition & Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Quartet Recordings
New in Improvised Music
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