Two Calls by FOG Brass Band, is bandleader, Rebecca Hennessy’s first full-length release at the helm, and marks a culmination of influences from her diverse trumpet career. On this recording, Hennessy’s writing brings the traditions of New Orleans party brass bands, Balkan folk music, country blues and high-energy jazz-rock side by side in unique juxtapositions. These songs, in all their diversity, evoke her myriad musical and extra-musical influences, bringing a unique mix of modern and traditional jazz with themes of nature. Two Calls delivers a lot of music drawn from natural imagery, especially the title song that features a field recording of two competing birdsongs that she made deep in the Panamanian jungle. Rebecca leads FOG with her characteristically warm trumpet sound and improviser’s approach to the music, recognizable from her successful and eclectic career both in Toronto as the musical director of the Massey Hall Women’s Blues Review and as a staple in several modern jazz outfits including Hobson’s Choice and Way North. With her style and personality, she is always pushing FOG into new territory in each song.
Two Calls is an album filled with Hennessy’s love of the natural world, but with the theme of nature always matched with different musical genres. Red Herring, Horn Lake, Lagoon, and Snag are all fishing songs, but come out very differently with their respective modern jazz-rock, chamber-jazz, lazy cowboy and New Orleans feels. Birds For Free and Two Calls are both inspired by birdsong, where the former has a Calypso-feel bridge and the latter settles into a 12/8 groove. Kings County Sheriff offers a Balkan vibe to the county, which is actually referring to Brooklyn NY, written while Hennessy spent some time living there. Mutterings is a tribute to the great singer, Mary Margaret O’Hara and Why Are You So Sad Booker Little aims to capture the melancholy sound of the late great American trumpet player and composer, Booker Little, who died in 1961 at the age of 23.
This album caught the band in the studio at its best, having just finished a tour of jazz festivals where it was nominated for both the Grand Prix de Jazz at the Montreal Jazz Festival and a Rising Star award at the Halifax Jazz Festival. Recorded live off the floor, these are Toronto’s best jazz musicians taking chances and really going for it, exploring and playing off each other. Tom Richards brings his composer’s approach to the trombone, drawing on his ample experience in both the improvised and brass band worlds. Holding down the bottom of the brass section, Jay Burr’s tuba playing is a distinctive addition to Canadian modern jazz. Jay’s sound and personality on the tuba redefine what a tuba is on jazz bass and this is what helps to set FOG apart from other brass bands. Tania Gill is a very thoughtful improviser and accompanist, and her approach and touch on the piano is integral to the shape this music. Don Scott brings a driving intensity to the album, offering both the raucous electric guitar at the peaks of the album as well as the subtle soundscapes that allow the music to breathe. Nico Dann is an incredibly innovative drummer in both jazz and indie-rock worlds. His artful presence on this album is pleasantly mischievous and takes the music to unexpected territories.
The shape and soundscapes of this album owe a great debt to the uniquely poignant voice of producer/engineer Jean Martin. He took FOG’s live studio performances, and altered them. Often these changes are subtle, textural and supporting the music, such as with Hennessy’s many brass overdubs, but in others, especially Horn Lake, you can hear the massive effect of his studio processing on the overall sound, using sneaky effects and alterations, and even once, a backwards piano. This is a jazz album through and through, but hiding in these tracks are production tricks usually reserved for the rock and pop worlds. These radical stylistic interventions bring together a unique set of recordings that deliver a varied yet coherent listening experience.
released March 27, 2017
Rebecca Hennessy - trumpet , flugelhorn, peckhorn & baritone horn
Tom Richards - trombone
Jay Burr - tuba
Tania Gill - piano
Don Scott - guitar
Nico Dann - drums & triangle
Recorded at Canterbury Music Company, Toronto
Engineered by Jeremy Darby & Jean Martin
Mixed and Mastered by Jean Martin at the Farm
Produced by Jean Martin & Rebecca Hennessy
Art and Design by Yesim Tosuner, Backyard Design
This recording was made possible through the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.
The tradition of New Orleans party bands, Balkan music, blues and high-energy jazz-rock can be heard in the music played by FOG, however FOG uses these sounds as a point of departure for further exploration.