Antigonish-based trumpeter Paul Tynan's latest album wastes no time in getting down to hard-swinging business.
After a few pickup bars, Tynan's composition More Than Just A Single Road treats listeners to authoritative post-bop that recalls the early '80s music of Wynton Marsalis thanks to some of its harmonic and structural details. Tynan's lead-off solo highlights his own muscular yet lyrical approach to improvising, while pianist Dan Murphy's solo is a cavalcade of incisive single-note lines.
It's a solid start to an album that has much going for it. At the big-picture level, most striking are the diversity and consistency of QuARTet's subesequent five tracks. The unwavering strength of the album reflects well on Tynan, a professor at St Francis Xavier University, and his Chicago-based rhythm section — Murphy, bassist (and Canadian expat) Ashley Summers and drummer Chris Baker. Oh — did I mention that the group spent just one day in the studio?
The follow-up to More Than Just A Single Road is Tynan's gentle Latin tune It's All We Have To Offer, which on paper has a bit of Benny Golson's compositions to it, but winds up bringing Kenny Wheeler, one of Tynan's musical touchstones, to mind as it was performed.
The disc's next three tracks collectively ratchet up the tension. The adventurous and aptly named tune Swirl begins with a masterful piano introduction before everyone goes out on a limb. The simpatico between Tynan and Murphy as they weave music in tandem is especially striking. What We've Left Behind is a dour, rubato lament that goes deeply and unerringly into its vibe. Low Brow is a slamming, throbbing, rock tune that challenges Tynan and company to work wonders within its simple specifications.
The album comes to a rest with the forthright piece Everything I Have. Its prettiness hits twice as hard after the more tightly wound or unabashedly aggressive music that preceded it.
None of these tracks point directly to the title of Tynan's album. For that, a fan would have to look at the disc's liner notes — or better still, the full-sized book that comes with the vinyl version of the release. Putting the art in QuARTet are the six images that Tynan took inspiration, one visual artwork per musical composition. Tynan's notes explain concrete connections that he made so that, for example, the A maj7 chord at the end of the form of It's All We Have To Offer is linked to the single bright light in artist Michael Barton's photo. That piano introduction to Swirl? It was improvised after Tynan showed Paul Vienneau's image to pianist Murphy and said, "Play this."
Tynan's liner notes add another layer to his music — it's always fun to lift the hood and see how the artistic process works. But at the same time, quARTet's music resonates powerfully entirely on its own.