Touted as “innately personal” by DownBeat Magazine, Brodie West's unique vision has been nourished by a bafflingly diverse array of sources. Meeting the legendary Dutch drummer Han Bennink in 2000 at age 24 not only sparked an ongoing creative partnership (including two records), but also led him in a number of other fruitful directions. Bennink was the connection to exploratory punks The Ex, who brought West aboard for their collaboration with Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya, which produced recordings and tours worldwide.
Where the Brodie West Quintet (Astral Spirits, Ansible Editions) trades in clever jazz asymmetry and his duo Ways is a stark and focussed exploration of rhythm, Eucalyptus is where this eclecticism is most audible. The band simmers with polyrhythmic percussion, laid-back jazz sweetness, various strains of psychedelic wonk, and subtle tropical aromas from dub on “Rose Manor,” named after the retirement home of his musical grandmother Lorna (ever a source of inspiration for West) to Bossa Nova, as heard on “It's In A Move.” Its streaks of free-form bedlam and pure sonic texture keep listeners poised for perplexity and cheerful volatility.
Moves manages to approximate the playful, intoxicating warmth the band conjures in their beloved local live appearances. Eucalyptus has made a tradition out of mounting month-long residencies at Hirut, a cozy east-end eatery that serves delicious Ethiopian cuisine. Hirut even gets a nod in the credits. Perhaps it's because this record's subtle whimsy and inviting disarray draws so much from the spirit of those evenings.
A large part of this odd concoction's success comes down to West's co-conspirators, a veritable who's who of Toronto's underground music community. Trumpet player Nicole Rampersaud, who has since relocated to Fredericton, New Brunswick, has sculpted her unique tone as composer-in-residence at Halifax's EVERYSEEKER Festival and in collaborations with the likes of Rakalam Bob Moses, Anthony Braxton, Joe Morris and Telephone Explosion's own Joseph Shabason. Ryan Driver (clavinet) has cut a series of gorgeous song records for Tin Angel Records, and collaborated with Eric Chenaux (Constellation) in various projects, while leading a number of his own imaginative outfits. Michael Smith (bass) plays with Toronto psychonauts the Cosmic Range and has toured and recorded with MV+EE, Sandro Perri plus countless others. Fellow Perri collaborator, percussionist Blake Howard brings the palpable joy of his playing to collaborations with Marker Starling, Little Annie, and the surrealist mischief of GUH. 2021 saw Nick Fraser (drums) leading a disc on Hat-Hut's Ezzthetics imprint. It follows a string of other celebrated recordings with international out-jazz heavyweights like Tony Malaby and Kris Davis for Clean Feed, Astral Spirits and more. In addition to pursuing his delicate solo song work, drummer Evan Cartwright plays in both of West's other projects, and has performed and recorded with Tasseomancy, The Weather Station, US Girls, Badge Époque and Andy Shauf.
Another exciting development unveiled on Moves is the presence of guitarist Kurt Newman, who replaces longtime member Alex Lukashevsky. Newman's whirling treatments and colorful array of tones figure prominently into the ensemble's new and disorienting sound. Newman was the co-founder of premiere Austin improv festival No Idea alongside Chris Cogburn. A ceaseless collaborator who's worked with the likes of Sarah Hennies, Tetuzi Akiyama, Mats Gustafsson, he also leads his own projects such as Country Phasers and the Nashville Minimalism Unit.