Recorded at Copenhagen’s Village Studio, this eclectic but sparse nine-track offering of explorational dialogues features the extraordinary teaming of Canadian duo Ways (saxophonist Brodie West and drummer Evan Cartwright) with award-winning Danish pianist Simon Toldam.
The trio will need no introduction to fans of improvisation, but for the record: as well as heading his own critically acclaimed groups Eucalyptus and the Brodie West Quintet, the alto sax player has also collaborated with The Ex, Ethiopian sax legend Gétatchèw Mèkurya, Dutch drummer Han Bennink and Toronto bent-jazz outfit Drumheller.
Cartwright, as well as working with Brodie on some of the above endeavours, has also been heard with the Canadian Lightman sisters’ Tasseomancy and indie poppers Snowblink. Toldam fronts his own eponymous trio as well as being a member of Stork and Paris Peacock. He has also worked with Bennink and is the proud owner of four Danish Jazz Grammys.
The works here range between wildly improvisational and semi-structured composition, but all defy generic definition. For example, the opening Fame is slow, hesitant and halting, while the plodding, steady Love is more organised, placing deep resonant drum hits behind minimal piano action and some high sax notes towards the close.
The scratchy Money (the first of three) features a boisterous interplay between West and Cartwright with light keyboard touches holding their own in between, a theme that is continued in Money II, with left-channel sax and right-channel piano fighting as Cartwright maintains a furious mix of rhythm and frantic rolls; and Money III, with its high-pitched, pained, almost pleading saxophone runs.
Passion takes the tempo down a bit to the slow, pensive pace of earlier selections, with sax and piano offering a more relaxed approach over subtle drum and cymbal accompaniment. The closing Health starts off funereally hesitant, but runs the gamut of emotions in its nearly 14-minute runtime, dropping in some more recognisable melodic forms later on.
While Fortunes is a splendid example of exploration, improvisation and some composition, a little more organised rhythm and recognised melody would make it more accessible to wider audiences. However, this is to miss the point somewhat: what it really represents is a mysterious, minimalist event which finds its three already distinguished purveyors at the top of their form. And this will be appreciated by those who luxuriate in sparse, soul-expanding musical landscapes.
Hear/buy Ways + Toldam: Fortunes at https://brodiewest.bandcamp.com/music
Fame; Love; Money; Luck; Money II; Money III; Passion; Fame II; Health (42.58)
Brodie West (as); Evan Cartwright (d); Simon Toldam (p). Copenhagen, Denmark, 2020.