François Houle 5 + 1 Genera

Clarinetist François Houle is never less than excellent, performance- and composition-wise. And his current sextet give him a depth of sound resources with which to deploy his compositional vocabulary while also providing empathetic support for his solo ventures as well. "Guanara" is mid-to-slow tempo over Michael Bates's tasty bass line and Harris Eisenstadt's subtle underpinning drums. Samuel Blaser digs in, creating a powerful, strong-toned, lyrical trombone solo, followed by Houle, who gets to strut his technical stuff into the highest register. "Albatross" finds Houle channelling his inner John Carter, swinging obliquely at high speed, ceding to trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum, who squeezes and squirms, stretching and strangling pitches in ways remindful of Don Cherry or Bill Dixon. It's obvious why French pianist Benoit Delbecq is so widely recorded: he is inventive, empathetic, assertive and abstract as called for. Some moments show cracks though, such as "Essay #7," where ensemble parts and intonation don't quite meet the considerable demands of Houle's composition. Even so, Genera is strong music making from serious musicians. (Songlines)