Cat Toren’s Human Kind

Scintillating Beauty
Panoramic Recordings PAN 18

By Ken Waxman

Aiming to express her ideas of hope, Vancouverite-turned-Brooklynite pianist Cat Toren, also a practitioner of sound healing has composed a four-track album that is both cadenced and curious by drawing on multiple musical strands.

On “Radiance in Veils”, for instance, she uses the modal outpourings of Xavier Del Castillo’s tenor saxophone, multiple-string chording from Yoshie Fruchter’s oud plus the textures of chimes, tuning forks, singing bowls, rattles and bells to outline spinning and soothing 1970s style Spiritual Jazz. But on “Ignis Fatuus” she creates a slow-burning swinger built on Jake Leckie’s walking bass line, and Del Castillo shouting in full Bop-bluesy mode. In between she varies the program from one signpost to the other. Added to each of the four tracks are cross pulses from drummer Matt Honor and her own playing which expresses stentorian notated music-styled glissandi and snapping jazz vamps in equal measures.

Besides Del Castillo, whose intensity and variations move towards multiphonics and squeaking split tones, but never lose control, Fruchter’s string set is the secret weapon. Skillfully he sometimes plucks and shapes his strings into patterns that could originate in the Maghreb, while on other tracks more closely aligned to a finger-snapping pulse, he replicates sympathetic rhythm guitar chording.

It’s unsure how Covid-19, which arrived after this CD was recorded, has affected Toren’s upbeat ideas. But she and her fellow humans certainly demonstrate resilience and adaptability in musical form on this disc.

-for The Whole Note February 2021