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Eucalyptus - Moves (Telephone Explosion)

10 May 2022

Armed with eight players, a widescreen compositional vision and a propensity toward musical freedom, Toronto ensemble Eucalyptus gets busy the moment “Infinity Bananas,” the first track on the band’s sixth album Moves, begins its spin. Led by saxophonist Brodie West, whose credits range from drummer Hans Bennik to experimental punks the Ex, the group doesn’t always make it easy on the listener, pushing the edges of the genres through which it hops. Bassist Michael Smith, percussionist Blake Howard and double drummers Evan Cartwright and Nick Fraser keep the cuts groovy without dumbing down the rhythms. Keyboardist Ryan Driver and guitarist Kurt Newman set up amorphous backdrops, less interested in licks than atmosphere, and more likely to act as chaos agents than soloists. West and trumpeter Nicole Rampersaud soar over the loose structures, sometimes in harmony, sometimes at odds, but always in concert. That gives the group the versatility to start with free jazz on “Infinity Bananas,” move to bossa nova on “It’s in a Move” and luminous balladry on “Rose Manor,” and end up with the jittery post bop of “Snapdragon Hop” and the woozy hard bop of “Lookie.” While that kind of genre-hopping can become tedious, that’s not the case here. West’s strong sense of melody and the band’s singular identity give Moves variety rather than dilettantism, and that positions Eucalyptus as a distinctive voice in modern jazz.