I guess the "Robert Jukic International Quartet" was a Charlie Chan-style contractual dodge, since Take The Duck (website | myspace) is playing at the Jazz Station today. Toine Thys (myspace) has been mostly equated with Rackham lately, but this is actually his longest-running group, a jazz-jazz band co-led with the Austrian trumpeter Daniel Noesig (myspace) since 1998. The personnel has shifted recently: it was only Paris-based Canadian drummer Karl Jannuska's second gig with the band.
They came out guns blazing with a rambunctious bounce. Right away, the difference between Jannuska and whoever it was that I had seen previously was evident: Jannuska is an excellent drummer, upfront but responsive and tight. There's something a little frantic in his body language, but not in his sound. The composition of his that ended the first set underlined that distinction, as a more-or-less unison line played over an intricately arranged, shifting rhythm part that started, stopped, raced ahead and then stuttered. During his solo, Noesig progressively loosed himself from the form, bringing a satisfying unity and forward motion to its strict cycles.
Bobby Timmons's "Dat Dere" provided a slice of classic 32-bar bluesy hard bop that the trumpeter bit into with delight. Sitting just out of arm's reach of his bell, his clean, precise playing and fat sound were a joy. On "Emergency Staircase," Jannuska was highlighted again, as his mobile, Latin-ish straight-eight was killer, and took the energy to a peak when he made this drumset sound something like timbales.
The front line plays on the classic trumpet/saxophone division of labour, the former more lyrical, the latter more muscular. "Juanita Kligopoulou" (which you can hear on its MySpace page) is a great, Calexico-like dusty Mexican border-town of a song that, among other things, relies heavily on that front-line collaboration. Song is the key word here, which makes it unsurprising that it is also a part of Rackham's repertoire. Noesig lyrically intoned the melody, while Thys obbligatoed, reinforced and dialogued, roles switching freely without ever losing the song-feel. There were no clear breaks for solos, but rather a complete song with sections of more loosely improvised melody. Another thing shared with Rackham is Thys's signature sound: a way of occasionally emphasising longer notes with an attack that's halfway between a growl and a Spanish rolled r.