Ida Toninato/Jennifer Thiessen

The Space Between Us
Ambiances Magnétiques AM 236 CD

By Ken Waxman

Drone inflected microtonalism, this session by Montreal-based baritone saxophonist Ida Toninato and viola d’amore/violist Jennifer Thiessen takes its cues from New music as much as jazz improvisation. As the duo’s performance undulates through seven constricted tracks, the development mixes sonorities and silences as well as studied extensions of the instruments’ conventional ranges. For instance, Toninato’s fat saxophone smears move swiftly from coloratura to chalumeau registers, the better to intersect with Thiessen’s flying spiccato or multiple-stopping sequences.

Additionally, it sounds at points as if processing or overdubbing is taking place, in order to produce a murmuring ostinato and hints of bassoon-like or French horn-like textures that evolve alongside the duo’s output. These doubled reed tones are sensed most readily on “Magma/Suspension”, with these throaty tremolo tones strikingly contrasting with the fiddler’s swift, razor-sharp sweeps. The most telling instance of the accompaniment-challenge matrix is “Space [Outer] Space”. Here cosmos infinity is evoked through barely moving textures, but ones which confirm their otherworldliness through emphasised sul ponticello bow strokes plus pressurized reed snarls and buzzes until both motifs finally combine.

Although the CD is entitled The Space Between Us, the profound musical connection established by Thiessen and Toninato confirms that this gap is minimal at best.

—For The Whole Note September 2018