Album Review: Patrick Boyle’s After Forgetting

Saying you don't like jazz is the culinary equivalent to declaring you don’t like curry, which is obviously just silly.

This past December, Canadian jazz trumpeter, improviser, composer, and educator, Patrick Boyle released his new album entitled, After Forgetting. The Newfoundland-native/British Columbia transplant is an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Victoria, and, as After Forgetting confirms, a serious force in Canadian jazz today.

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As a genre, jazz, and particularly improvisational jazz, can sometimes be perceived as too conceptual or highbrow for the “average music listener’s tastes.” This is a shame, as it’s the culinary equivalent to declaring you don’t like curry, which is obviously just silly. You don’t have to enjoy lava-hot vindaloo and avant garde trumpeter Don Cherry, but everyone, give or take a few stubborn souls, should be able to get behind butter chicken, and the velvety smooth Chet Baker.

As a trumpeter, Patrick Boyle embraces both the spicy and smooth, moving back and forth, and in between, depending on what he’s trying to communicate with his horn. While I’m not enough of a jazz-o-phile to convincingly delve into the in and outs of Boyle’s style and technique, the best music is meant to emotionally reach you, not intellectually impress you. With all 4 tracks cut live off the floor, After Forgetting resonates with me in part because it casts off the burden of perfection and instead opts for open spaces and improvisational freedom.

Patrick Boyle (trumpet), Bill Brennan (piano), Mike Downes (bass), and Michael Billard (drums) open the album with an unexpected rendition of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A- Changin’.”  The song’s melodies and timing are twisted and turned into something faintly recognizable off the top, until the association clicks somewhere around the minute mark. It’s a playful, thoroughly enjoyable take, which Dylan, who’s been rearranging his songs at live performances until almost unrecognizable, for years, would surely appreciate.

The following track, “Touch Her Soft Lips and Part,” is as the title suggests, a contemplative and melancholy affair. Throughout much of the album, it’s the trumpet and piano leading the back and forth exchanges. On this particular track, Boyle hangs back more, really waiting for the right moments to join in. The title track has a similar feel, but this time with Boyle’s trumpet taking the lead. At around the 4-minute mark, Brennan and Boyle begin an extended dance-like exchange of arpeggios, followed by a beautifully understated bass solo by Downes, and subtle cymbal accents by Billard. It’s a standout moment on the album that really captures the flavour of the ensemble, and After Forgetting as a whole.

What strikes me most about the playing on After Forgetting, and again, the album as a whole, is its emotional malleability. Moments of melancholy share the space with moments of jouissance; at times almost in the same note. By the time the final track “You Must Believe In Spring” comes to a close, I can just as easily see myself nursing a double-shot of heartbreak in some dank bar, as I can dancing cheek to cheek with my beloved at the end of a late night. The album resonates beautifully in every sense, and this is precisely what the best music will always do regardless of genre.

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