Ratchet Orchestra Live At The Sala Rosa November 28, 2007

This is a lovely recording of a band that have gradually expanded from a quartet to a truly orchestral sound. Several generations of Montreal musicians participate in this project, which displays a wonderful variety of approaches to improvisation, from myriad takes on noise to European classical derivations or the bluesiest of wails. These noir-ish, expansive compositions are obviously influenced by Sun Ra, but in the right ways. Ratchet master Nicolas Caloia never indulges in lame, quasi-mystic space motifs; rather he finds inspiration in the orchestral sounds of Ellington, Ra’s former boss Fletcher Henderson and occasionally, Egyptian icon Om Khalsoum. With over 27 players in the orchestra, seemingly every instrument is doubled, if not tripled up. A large contingent of strings makes for some arresting ensemble sounds, as in the beguiling "Carmine” and the initial part of "T(h)rust.” The large scale improvs (Alan Silva, etc.) of the ’60s also come to mind but this disc’s stylistic range, contemporary electric sounds and overall gusto never sound like revisionism. My big gripe is the cover art, which has feathers glued all over the spine. My allergies and my computer’s CD drive curse you for this poor design choice. (Independent)