reviews

Pianist Tom Van Seters recorded this disc in Winnipeg with vibraphonist Don Thompson, bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Karl Jannuska after performing across the Prairies last fall, and the band sounds tight. Van Seters, a Brandon University jazz instructor, plays with polish on eight of his own compositions as a soloist, accompanist and as a leader of a band of excellent musicians. The pianist really takes flight on Doppler Shift and Notes From My Underground is a showcase for Jannuska, a former Manitoban now living in Paris. Thompson, the Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist, is a joy to listen to on vibes and he and Van Seters make a complementary pair throughout. 4 stars out of 5.

Chris Smith - The Winnipeg Free Press


Pianist Van Seters is based in Brandon and has recruited a far-flung combo for this polished outing - Toronto vibraphonist Don Thompson, Montreal bassist Fraser Hollins and Parisian drummer Karl Jannuska. (All but Thompson have strong Montreal connections.) The band sneaks smoothly through eight airy originals by the leader, who provides a solid, self-contained centre around which his confident colleagues can explore time, melody and their own imaginations. Thompson is particularly effective with liquid-toned runs. Especially interesting tunes are "Doppler Shift", the craftily-structured "Blues for Andre" and "Notes From My Underground".

Geoff Chapman - The Toronto Star


Pianist Tom Van Seters is a Montrealer now resident in Manitoba, lecturing in the jazz studies program at Brandon University. His eastern connections are on display in his new self-released CD as he calls on Toronto's Don Thompson to play vibraphone, and Montrealers Fraser Hollins and Karl Jannuska for the bass and drum work.

The packaging of the CD is very European, ECM-stark in style. Everything you've read so far is not included on the pale green and gray panels of the insert, other than the personnel. It's glossy and slick looking, but uninvolving. Fortunately, the music isn't. This is sophisticated, contemporary jazz of a post-Bill Evans nature, but the pianist shows his knowledge of Wynton Kelly-type players, too.

Don Thompson is one of Canada's greatest jazz artists, as bassist, pianist, teacher or composer, but I think he most enjoys playing vibes, and it shows on this release. He's bright and light on Doppler Shift, groovy on the humourous Blues For André and reflective on Seclusion, a duet with Van Seters.

Tom Van Seters himself is a calm presence, in control of things but sharing space with his compatriots. "The Long View" is not an ego-driven vehicle. Bassist Fraser Hollins is a bit under-recorded perhaps, but his strong underpinning pairs well with the tasty drumming of Karl Jannuska (who now is based in Europe, I believe).

Ted O'Reilly - Whole Note Magazine


Joining Van Seters are heavy hitters on the North American jazz scene - vibraphonist extraordinaire Don Thompson, double bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Karl Jannuska. Improvisatory in nature, the eight compositions, all Van Seters originals, are beautifully balanced and highlight the impeccable musicianship of these performers. Despite the light, relaxed. easy feeling of these charts, there is a tightness that lays the foundation for the solo sections. Equal musical partners in this project, individuals have plenty of opportunities to shine. Thompson, an iconic, award-winning jazz musician who is a master as much on the vibraphone as he is on the piano, bass and drums, is given free rein to demonstrate his genius. The rhythm section, highlighting the talents of Hollins and Jannuska, does much more than the requisite maintenance of the beat as it lays down a strong foundation, straying occasionally for a little self-expression.

Joanne Villeneuve - The Brandon Sun

 

Eight compositions by former Montrealer pianist Van Seters, are played by a quartet of Don Thompson, on vibes for this one, Fraser Hollins and Karl JannuskaIwell worth many listens.

Len Dobbin - The Montreal Mirror

 

Narrative, the recent release by Montreal pianist and band leader Tom Van Seters is everything one would expect from a high quality, modern, straight-ahead jazz recording: A well crafted product that has great tune writing, imagination and creativity in solo improvisations, and above all an exceptionally high level of musical technique and proficiency…The variety of his musical imagination ranges from lilting jazz waltzes and sensitive ballads to mode based excursions and tunes with bop tinged angular melodies. Van Seters also exemplifies in his compositional craft a keen sense of balance between familiar sounds and unique twists of surprise…all are well executed by his quintet. Superb musicianship is exemplified by their very tight ensemble playing. A swinging rhythm section that maintains a relaxed yet driving foundation further enhances this precision. Soloing by Van Seters, saxophonist Mike Murley, trumpeter/flugelhornist Kevin Turcotte, and bassist Fraser Hollins demonstrates highly imaginative and creative spontaneous music making. The exceptional clarity and channel separation on the CD raise the recording quality of Narrative to a standard in the same league as the finest in recorded jazz…on all counts an excellent recording and a distinct pleasure to listen to…without a doubt a recording that should be included in any jazz CD collection and certainly leads one to look forward to Van Seters' next opus.

Craig W. Hurst - jazzreview.com

 

Montreal has produced some of Canada's best young jazz composers in recent years, including Joel Miller, Christine Jensen and Bryn Roberts. With Narrative, pianist Tom Van Seters joins this elite group. Lyrical, thoughtful and sophisticated, Van Seters' latest disc provides lots of pleasure over repeated listenings. It is substantial and swinging, with eight originals that do jazz's modern mainstream proud. With Van Seters in the rhythm section are bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Dave Laing, who both became Montreal jazz scene mainstays soon after leaving Ottawa. The band's front line is a one-two punch from Toronto - saxophonist Mike Murley and trumpeter Kevin Turcotte. There's plenty going on in Van Seters' well-plotted music, full of advanced melodic and harmonic materials. It's challenging stuff, but Van Seters and his mates are more than equal to exploring it.

Peter Hum - The Ottawa Citizen

 

Canadian pianist Van Seters' third album as a leader features strong writing and playing. With most tracks in the eight-minute range, the Quintet stretches out satisfyingly on the pianist's often dreamy, multi-hued compositions. Mike Murley and Kevin Turcotte make an attractive front line, intimately shading Van Seters' reflective melodies. Murley, a voluble player who judges his phrases well, has a smoothness on tenor sax that extends to all registers, while Turcotte has a distinctive, very lyrical voice on trumpet. Van Seters supports both of them with active comping that enriches both their statements and the material; like much of his writing here, his soloing tends to mine long lines for a surfeit of melody. The opening of My Old Friend is reminiscent of the John Coltrane Quartet's balladry, with flowing, rubato statements from the horns. Although it kicks into an up tempo romp, a generally calm mood is maintained until the boppish Pass On the Right, whose unaccompanied trumpet/tenor duet shows the group's attention to variety. The nine-minute If Only We Could is an excellent example of the pianist's way with melody; he and Murley (on soprano) sustain its gentle mood of longing with a story-telling grace. The extended, involved melodic line of The Buttonhole Maker gives way to the disc's most adventurous soloing, with particularly good work from Turcotte. Fraser Hollins and Dave Laing power this excellent disc with quiet authority. Narrative is well worth seeking out.

Larry Nai - Cadence Magazine

 

Joined by two of Montreal's better rhythm men, Fraser Hollins and Dave Laing, and two high-profile jazzmen from the Toronto area, Mike Murley and Kevin Turcotte, Van Seters' quintet has been beautifully captured here by engineer Andre White…All eight tracks contain top drawer writing and playing. Try Tom's "Pass On The Right" for starters. Jazz Festival material!

Len Dobbin - The Montreal Mirror

 

This quintet session is a window on the vision and sensibility of McGill University - trained pianist Tom Van Seters, the leader, composer and arranger of the eight cuts on this polished CD. Van Seters builds his pieces around attractive melodies…All are lyrical and balanced and the song is essential to this vision. Arrangements are well crafted, driven skillfully by bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Dave Laing.

Irwin Block - The Montreal Gazette

 

Pianist and composer Tom Van Seters has enough musical ideas to fill a book, and you can consider this disc one chapter with eight parts. Relying on his original compositions and his talents at the piano, he works within this quintet setting to explore new musical territory…The well-crafted songs and tight playing on Narrative fold together into one collective statement, making this disc a standout example of jazz at its best.

Stephen Koch - All About Jazz