Monday, October 27, 2014

Ideas Into Music

The music that drummer/composer Tyshawn Sorey creates is truly his own.  If you have only seen or heard powering groups led by Vijay Iyer, Anthony Braxton, Steve Lehman, Armen Donelian or the trio he co-leads with Ingrid Laubrock and Kris Davis (Paradoxical Frog), you know that the Newark, New Jersey-native is capable of shaking the foundations.  Yet, his own recordings, of which the latest "Alloy" (Pi Recordings), are often quiet with long pieces and, oddly (to some) very little drumming.

As a composer, Mr. Sorey shows the influence of Morton Feldman and that influence can be felt throughout "Alloy."  With pianist Cory Symthe and bassist Chris Tordini, the 4 tracks are deliberate, filled with moments of silence, quiet interactions and, unlike several of his previous CDs, handsome, long, melodic lines.  A sense of sly playfulness can be heard in the trio's interactions on the opening track, "Returns", with Smythe (who is knowns for his work with violinist Hilary Hahn) sounding like Thelonious Monk at times.  His solemn solo lines lead into "Movement" - he plays the Satie-like melody by himself for the first 6 minutes (the piece runs 19:52) with his lines opening up as the bass and drums enter.  He and Tordini both play melodies as the drummer moves around his cymbals. The pianist's phrases stretch out as the song progresses yet retain a strong melodic bent. "Template" and has a "freer" feel, still quiet, until 2:30 into the 7-minute track when the drummer falls into quite a funky figure.  The remainder of the track may remind some of Vijay Iyer's pieces that cross hip-hop beats with trance-like piano figures and bouncing bass accompaniment.

The longest track, "A Love Song", clocks in at just under 31 minutes and opens with a long solo piano statement.  Filled with repetitive figures, sustained notes, quiet chords that change every now and then, it becomes easy to surrender to the mesmerizing melody. The serenity of the music changes slightly when the bassist enters at the 19:40 mark, his round tones move with the piano and then one hears the quiet cymbal splashes. When Mr. Sorey drops into a slow, soulful, beat, Smythes lines pick up in intensity, like a heavy spring shower falling atop the rhythm section. The bass and drums stop abruptly; the remaining 3 minutes are quiet, impressionistic, piano notes and chords that slowly brig the piece to a close, like the final raindrops coming off the leaves at the end of a summer rainstorm.

"Alloy" is stunning, peaceful, challenging, art without artifice.  This is music that slowly works its way into your mind and puts you at rest.  Even when the Trio goes "out", it's not for long.  Upon listening, one might think this is Cory Smythe's album.  Those listeners who know the music of Tyshawn Sorey understand that he composes for a "sound", for an overall group impression, and not to show off how great a player he or any member of his ensembles can be. It's a rare gift to hear music this peaceful in such a noisy world. Be grateful for this.  For more information, go to or to

Sketches is a New York-based quintet that has hit upon a unique group dynamic. All of their music is original (not so rare nowadays)  with each track composed by one member based on a "sketch" of another member. Composed of Jeremy Udden (alto and soprano saxophones), Matt Holman (trumpet and flugelhorn), Jarrett Cherner (piano), Martin Nevin (bass) and Ziv Ravitz (drums, mixing and mastering), the quintet came together in 2011.  All are as busy as sideman and/or leaders and their varied influences are evident in the music.  "Volume 1" was issued early in November 2013 (though it was recorded 14 months earlier) while the new recording comes from a March 2014 recording session.

The way that Udden and Holman blend their sound throughout the recording is quite impressive.  Pieces such as "Y & H" and the opening "Caught In The Storm" build from the harmonies the two create as well as the active but never intrusive drumming.  Cherner's fine chordal work on "Sirenia" and the ever-so-funky "Bibi" is both melodic and supportive.  It may take a few close listens to notice the fine support of bassist Nevin (who has worked with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and Joe Lovano) but his work frees up both the drummer and pianist to explore. As he and Cherner hold down the bottom, Udden, Holman and Ravitz push the exciting "Rub" to its boiling point.  As for the drummer, Ravitz shines throughout, whether it's the New Orleans strut of "Hybrid Cars" or The Band-like slow drag of "Hail From Plainville" (which features a delightful soprano sax solo).

There is a dramatic quality to songs such as "Wrong Place, Wrong Time", its handsome melody line taking its time to unfold.  With the rhythm section pushing the intensity, the alto sax and flugelhorn unwrap the melody with Holman getting the only solo. Whereas "Dyson Ritual" has more fire, especially noticeable in the trumpet and drums interaction in the middle of the performance. Cherner rides the circular bass lines and intense drumming for his solo just before the close of the song. The pianist studied at the New England Conservatory, played with the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra and earned a Master's Degree from the Manhattan School of Music.  He's an impressive soloist and an immaculate accompanist.

The only track that is not a collaboration is the short (1:13) "Calm After The Storm" that closes the album.  All 5 play but there are no solos, just the piano, sax and trumpet sharing the melody line as the bass and drums offer support.

"Sketches" becomes songs and songs become vehicles for intelligent and exciting interactions throughout this first-rate program. The quintet does perform live and one imagines the music gets stronger and stronger the more they play together.  Honest and unpretentious, Sketches catches your attention from the opening notes.  For more information, go to

Here's "Bibi" (composed by Jeremy Udden from a sketch by Jarrett Cherner):

No comments:

Post a Comment