Released: November 2022
Blue Season is a project begun by Toronto-born composer/saxophonist Liam Mitro. He composed debut EP ‘Live Session 918’ during lockdown and recorded it with some of the country's most formative innovators in alternative jazz.
The project opens as a swan dive into your consciousness, simultaneously exposing the elation of release in the first half of the phrase and the furrowed brow of reality in the second. A chorus of elegantly seductive horn lines soar skyward until finally reaching fever pitch where “like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” they drift gently down, jettisoned from the pressure. Second track ‘Placeholder/Cherish’ opens similarly as a burst of expression, the horns utilising the lower range amongst a circulating piano theme of strident harmony that deepens in complexity as it progresses into the upper range within the second half. It leaves ample space for the bass, which though seemingly understated in the mix, is so tonally mature and punctuates the drums so accurately that it in fact epitomises the instrument’s function.
This exceptional bass work is rewarded with its own moment in the sun on third track ‘It Would Mean A Lot’ as drops of piano accentuate a solo that clambers towards heaven on a curious improvised melody within the height of the instrument’s range. Delicate electronic elements of oceanic synth, mallet toms and brush snare nurture fertile soil for the resigned duet of horns to grow. As the work crescendos, the electronic element is slightly overindulged for my taste, leading to a grandioseness that fortunately is quelled and never reaches an unbearable bombast. Fourth and final track ‘Hard To See’ opens with gentle electric piano descent and synth atmospheres, as harmonious horns seep in. As the piece continues to unfold, the electric piano warps into an affected synth. Melodically I am reminded here of the expansive moments of Tears for Fears, until within the space of barely a bar, everything accelerates and breaks gracefully into acoustic piano, returning us to the central contemporary jazz notion that exists beneath these subtle electronic explorations.
So notable is the expert utilisation of dynamics across this 8-minute work, the whole unanimously tailoring the ebb and flow, whilst paving the way for the magnanimous sax solo from Mitro, who in the wake of touches of plush conversational lines and harmony from fellow saxophonist Leland Whitty, performs a solo blissfully devoid of shrieks of passion, instead imparting long warm seductive lines. The juxtaposing brass and rhythm section cannot be called polyrhythmic as such, more that the maintained legato of the horns sails over the loosely punctuating rhythm section, rather than weaving.
As we delve ever deeper into the fundamental questions around art in an effort to distract from the chaos surrounding us, for me a fundamental question has always remained ‘What is jazz?’ The existence of 'alternative' jazz has been in effect since the days of Esbjörn Svensson Trio in the early '90s, and whilst I have long concluded that without swing present in some form, work ought not to align itself with or award itself the prestigious title of jazz, I too comprehend that evolution is an element of this music that cannot be denied. The truest kinship to jazz one will find with Blue Season asides from great musical dexterity, is their mythic achievement of 'feel' and it is with true gratitude that I applaud 'Live Session 918' and its upholding and progressing of this strange alternative jazz, in these strange, alternative times.