Nick Fraser Quartet | Constellation | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Nick Fraser

Nick Fraser

Jean Martin

Nick Fraser Quartet 

When: Fri., Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m. 2016
Price: $10
Toronto drummer Nick Fraser has been through town before, playing behind trumpeter Lina Allemano in a couple groups, but he works as a leader in his own right too. Last year he got top billing on Too Many Continents (Clean Feed), a turbulent trio outing with pianist Kris Davis and saxophonist Tony Malaby for which the drummer composed three tunes; the group improvised the other four. The music is wide open, and honestly, there’s not much immediately discernible in the two batches. Ultimately the focus is on fluid, spontaneous interaction, particularly in the way Fraser responds to Davis. The latter powerfully works the left hand of the keyboard, dropping bass-heavy clusters (“I Needed It Yesterday”) or hammering out insistent notes (“Nostalgia for the Recent Past”), while Malaby conjures Arabic modalities with snaking soprano lines and Fraser lays down fragile cymbal patter and all-over-the-kit splatter. Malaby also turns up on Fraser’s new self-released Starer, a quartet album with cellist Andrew Downing and double bassist Rob Clutton. As with Too Many Continents, Fraser calls most of his pieces “sketches”—an acknowledgment of the freedom he gives his cohorts—but the strings frequently trace out written passages, providing a degree of structure as well as melodic raw material. Perhaps due to the chamber vibe of the instrumentation, both Fraser and Malaby exercise more restraint together than on their trio recording, settling into the melodic warmth of the pieces quite effectively. This is the quartet’s Chicago debut.
— Peter Margasak

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