By J.D. Considine | Published April 2020
Playing solo isn’t simply a matter of performing without accompaniment. In many ways, it’s working without a net, as naked and unforgiving a forum as music offers. It’s even worse in jazz, because in addition to offering a close-up look at the player’s tone and technique, solo improvisation also puts their ideas under the microscope. Needless to say, there hasn’t been a huge number of players with the courage and creativity to take that challenge on.
That Lina Allemano would have the moxie to record an album of solo trumpet won’t come as a surprise to those familiar with her work. A singular improvisor who has built an impressive discography both with her free-jazz combo, the Lina Allemano 4, as well as her semi-electric quartet, Titanium Riot, the Canadian-born Allemano clearly has the creative and technical chops to pull off a solo project like Glimmer Glammer. But what’s most striking about the album is that even though Allemano offers a different set of timbres and tools for each tune, each performance carries the same sense of narrative coherence, so that the music never seems like sound for its own sake.
Of course, some tracks are more abstract than others. “Clamour,” which Allemano said “was performed with circular breathing and uses extended technique to create multiphonics,” operates across a much narrower range of pitch than, say, the elegiac “One Man Down (For Justin),” which has a largely conventional melodic structure. But that latter tune also plays with texture, as Allemano not only adds tartness to the instrument’s tone at points by slipping a mute into the bell, but uses various extended techniques to make her trumpet sputter, sigh and groan.
Then there’s the title track, a “sound collage” in which Allemano “manipulates various materials in the left hand while playing trumpet (with multiple extended techniques) with the right hand.” As complicated as that description might seem, the piece functions as a sort of conversation, with the trumpet reacting and replying to the various textures and rhythms generated by whatever it is she’s is manipulating with her left hand. Yes, the sounds are abstract, but the sense isn’t, and it’s that quality that has made Allemano one of the most underappreciated trumpeters in jazz today.