Toronto based bassist Daniel Fortin is one of Canada’s most in demand musicians. His thoughtful, stylistic and eclectic approach has led him to perform with a variety of artists in the worlds of jazz, rock and pop music, including among others, Serena Ryder, July Talk, Matt Wilson Florian Hofner and David Occhipinti. Fortin is also co-leader of the Juno nominated trio MYRIAD3, along with pianist Chris Donnelly and drummer Ernesto Cervini. With two albums already under their belts, a third is due for release in 2016. “Brinks” is Fortin’s debut as band leader on the excellent Fresh Sound/New Talent label, and brings together long time collaborators David French on tenor saxophone, Michael Davidson on vibraphone and Fabio Ragnelli on drums. Daniel Fortin plays both acoustic and electric bass on the album.
All of the tunes that make up “Brinks” are written by the bassist and the album as a whole owes much of its sound to the performances of saxophonist French and perhaps even more so to the vibraphone playing of Davidson. But listen more closely and the real quality here is unearthed, with the tight, interconnected playing between Fortin and drummer Ragnelli. There are many passages to be heard where the bass and drums duo excel, bringing a rare and often sensitive synergy to the compositions. It is their crucial understanding that underpins the music on this album, allowing for the sax and vibes to take the lead roles with an assured confidence. Contemporary jazz can cover a wide spectrum of music, and this album would perhaps sit more comfortably with ECM aficionados as opposed to Blue Note enthusiasts. In truth, it’s somewhere in between, thoughtful and measured but most definitely rooted in the jazz tradition. Fortin’s playing reminds me a little of Charlie Haden. There’s often a deceptive simplicity to what he does, allowing for a depth and beauty to be resonating out from the music he is making. Whilst his approach to writing (at least for this quartet) is one of a quietly personal and slightly introspective nature, bringing us a warm and thought-provoking listening experience, to my ears it does lack a couple of key ingredients to lift it into the higher echelons. It’s all just a little too measured, never really taking off- whether that be by means of pulling at my heart-strings, or catching fire with a pulsating energy. I do appreciate that this is not necessarily what “Brinks” is all about, but it doesn’t have that edge or impromptu surprise about it overall. The tracks are all fairly evenly paced and similarly structured- I would have liked a little more variation from the obviously talented quartet. That said, it still makes for a very enjoyable listen, and I particularly liked a number of tracks, most notably the middle section of the album with the excellent performances that feature on “So As To”, “Smithereen” and “ADLDMBOLD”.
Daniel Fortin is definitely one to watch. It will be interesting to see where his undoubted talent takes him to next, and on this evidence there should be much more to come from this highly skillful bass player and composer.