Wander Wonder (Sel-Produced)

Allison Au Quartet

Released November 11, 2018

Juno Award Nominee Jazz Album of the Year: Group 2019






Following on the heels of the 2016 JUNO Award win for ‘Best Jazz Album of the Year: Group’ for Forest Grove, The Allison Au Quartet releases a highly anticipated third studio album Wander Wonder.

The culmination of an incredibly busy 2017 that saw the ensemble scoop up both the 2017 TD Grand Prix de Jazz (Festival International de Jazz de Montréal) and the 2017 Sting Ray Rising Star Award (Halifax Jazz Festival), Wander Wonder highlights Au’s maturation as a composer while continuing to showcase the strengths of her long time musical collaborators. Wander Wonder opens with ‘The Valley,’ a lush sonic amuse-bouche that features keyboardist Todd Pentney front and center on the Prophet Rev2 while the other band mates attentively weave in and out of the background. The following track, ‘Future Self,’ begins with a hypnotic vamp that eventually blossoms into Au’s angular melodic statements on the saxophone. ‘The Rest Is Up To You’ is an amalgamation of influences; a sort of Wayne Shorter-esque composition that also draws much inspiration from Brazilian pop music of the ‘70s. ‘Looking Up’ showcases some of Au’s strongest penmanship as a composer as it highlights the ensemble’s ability to transition seamlessly between rich contrasting sections. The pensive ballad, ‘Morning,’ establishes an atmosphere of repose and calm as the instruments are slowly, yet thoughtfully layered in. The album continues with ‘The Lie That Saves Us All’, a contemporary swing tune of changing meter and harmonic textures. ‘Red Herring’ emerges as an exploration of asymmetric melodies and equally jagged counter parts deftly executed by the rhythm section. ‘Grounds’ serves as an eloquent interlude to the robust exposition ‘Force Majeure’ that showcases Ragnelli’s apt drumming sensibility in a concluding solo. ‘A Trick of the Moonlight’ is a fitting finale; a introspective ballad that draws inspiration from a novel by British author Zadie Smith.

Track Listing:

1. The Valley 02:09

2. Future Self 06:19

3. The Rest Is Up To You 06:26

4. Looking Up 05:09

5. Morning 05:42

6. The Lie That Saves Us All 06:04

7. Red Herring 05:07

8. Grounds 03:02

9. Force Majeure 08:00

10. A Trick of the Moonlight 05:24


Allison Au: alto saxophone
Todd Pentney: piano, Prophet Rev2
Jon Maharaj: bass, electric bass
Fabio Ragnelli: drums

Recorded August 6 – 7, 2018, by David Hermiston at Inception Sound Studios, Toronto

Produced by Todd Pentney

Mixed by David Hermiston

Mastered by João Carvalho


Toronto-based, Juno Award-winning alto saxophonist Allison Au and her quartet present their follow-up to 2017’s Forest Grove (Self Produced) with Wander Wonder. The set of all Au originals—with keyboardist Todd Pentney co-writing “Force Majeur”—opens with a translucent dreamscape, “The Valley,” that sounds like something that Daniel Lanois might have cooked up. The quartet follows up this wandering and brief-but-gorgeous opener with a buoyant modern jazz gem, “Future Self.”
Au proves herself, again, a marvelous composer of engaging, accessible and melodic tunes, with a hint of perhaps a Wayne Shorter influence in her quartet sound. The set explores a lot of territory while maintaining a cohesive mood. Her music sounds consistently hopeful and modernistic. “The Lie That Saves Us All” with shifting meters combines an on-the edge quartet dynamic with Au’s saxophone weaving throughout in an elegant-yet-playful fashion. Au, as a tunesmith and arranger is like fellow saxophonist Branford Marsalis in her way of music making, crafting compositions that make it sound like she and her cohorts are having the best of times.
“Red Herring” features keyboardist Pentrey adding washes of sounds with his Prophet Rev2 synthesizer. It proves itself a terrific addition to the quartet sound, featured also on the previously-mentioned opening tune, “The Valley.”

Wander Wonder closes with the wistful “A Trick Of Moonlight,” a nod to British author Zadie Smith, inspired perhaps by the writer’s short story “Moonlit Landscape With Bridge.” It is a reflective, enthralling listening experience, as intricately lovely as can be.

Dan McClenaghan (All About Jazz)