There are no preliminaries: the blow to the solar plexus is immediate, and once the music has you on the canvas it keeps pummeling you – appropriately enough for a piece called Hit It as Loudly as Possible. It’s not just Jon Armstrong’s blistering tenor saxophone, it’s the punctuation marks from Dan Rosenboom’s trumpet and Ryan Dragon’s trombone that drop like giant boulders upon the turbulence of Benjamin Shepherd’s electric bass and Tina Raymond’s drums. During the enthralling tangle of Joshua White’s piano solo the intensity finally retreats to the level of skirmishing and sniper fire, and then unwinds further for the start of Rosenboom’s portentous solo. But only the start.
The wonder of Armstrong’s sextet is the way it collectively maintains intensity without tiring the ears or becoming predictable. The music is presented as two suites (the two sides of the beautifully-mastered LP version), with the lines between composition and improvisation imaginatively smudged. Even at its softest and most spacious, it still carries a disarming sense that another sonic assault is likely. All involved are distinctive and compelling improvisers, with a keen sense for colouring each other’s solos.