Rob Clutton Tender Buttons

Bassist Rob Clutton is one of Toronto's hardest working upright bass players, turning up in all manner of forward-looking jazz ensembles, such as the late, great, Handslang to Tim Posgate, and Glen Hall. Tender Buttons is his first CD and boasts a top-flight line-up of musicians with whom he has worked, including Posgate on guitar, Chiyoko Szlavnics on flute and soprano, and Lina Allemano on trumpet. Interestingly, Clutton has constructed a sextet without an alto or tenor sax, which leaves a good deal of room in the middle frequencies for Posgate and Allemano to show off their considerable talents. Thus, when the music is highly composed, as on the wonderful "Cranberry Bog," "Rosebary's Pull" and "Idiot Music V," the band's ensemble passages have an unusual multi-octave richness to them. As composed as some of the songs are, there is abundant freedom for all to stretch out. Clutton as a leader doesn't grandstand with multiple bass solos. He finds room for baritone sax and the tom and kick drum bass frequencies to augment his own role at the bottom of things. It's difficult to ascribe many influences to this music, Mingus and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra come to mind, but much of Tender Buttons has no jazz antecedent and looks toward European classical structures or free improv in the studio. Tender Buttons is sure to be one of the standout releases in Canadian jazz this year. (Snailbongbong)