Lens", on eyes&ears Records in 2017. The quintet's second album, "Intertwine", is now out on Outside In Music now featuring guitarist Matt Gold, tenor saxophonist Chris Madsen, and drummer Hall.
Replacing the keyboards with the guitar acts to "open up" the sound of the quintet. The new album, which clocks in at nearly 74 minutes, never feels over-stuffed or sounds dull––instead, Sommers has composed music with strong melodies that gives the ensemble plenty of room to create cogent solos and for Hall to experiment underneath the solid foundations the leaders creates. "Also Tomorrow" opens the 12-song program, the two tenor saxes combining to present the melody while the drums and bass play a skipping rhythm. "James Marshall" follows and the title is a reference to James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix. You can hear the influence of the great guitarist in the structure of the song but Gold's solo certainly goes its own original way. There's a bluesy solo from Bradfield and exciting statement from Madsen that leads the piece to its powerful close.
The up-tempo title tracks closes the program. Again, it's the skipping quality of the drums that gives the handsome melody the room to move and expand. The blend of soprano and tenor over Gold's rippling guitar lines is so attractive. The track also features a melodically rich solo from the leader and rousing call and response by the saxes that leads the piece and album to a gentle finish.
"Intertwine", for this listener, is an album that I start at the beginning, go to the end and start all over again. The bountiful melodies and rhythms wash through the room and, in the long run, are greatly rewarding. Clark Sommers Lens is an ensemble that begs to be seen live so it can work its musical magic on an attentive and appreciative audience. In the meantime, this album is a true treat!
To find out more, go to www.clarksommers.com.
Most modern music fans know Elan Mehler as co-producer and Artistic Director of Newvelle Records, the label that has been producing ultra-high quality vinyl albums in a subscription series since 2016. There's much more than music––each package features impressive art work, informative liner notes, and more. Most people don't know that Mehler is a fine pianist––the fifth" season featured Mehler in a musical conversation with trumpeter Dave Douglas and, in 2020, his duo album with vocalist Becca Stevens was issued as a "digital-only" release.
"I’ve spent my whole life with this music – listening to this music – practicing this music – relying on this music – struggling with this music – and – when it’s good – welcoming this music’s arrival from the quietest place in my heart." (There's much more to understand about this recording in the notes). The music ranges from the sweet blues of "East Side Blues" to deep introspection of the title track to lovely gospel sounds of "When You Were Blind" to the Frank Kimbrough influence that permeates "The Shakes" to the lyrical "We Spin" to the Erik Satie gentleness of "Ruby D." Scherr and Mela are the perfect partners––while neither solos, they listen intently to the pianist either following as Mehler moves through his solos or gently prodding him or just quietly interacting. One of the aspects of this music that stands out is how articulate and musical Elan Mehler is.
What might happen to the active listener as he or she goes deeper into "There Is a Dance" is that a sense of calm should spread through the body. This music is not about technique, about swing, or volume; inevitably, it's about healing, about acceptance, about moving forward into a better state of being. Power need not be about pushing someone away until they push back; it can also be about pulling one into a hug and giving thanks for being alive. Elan Mehler may have struggled to bring this music to life but the results are life-affirming.
For more information, go to www.newvelle-records.com/products/the-renewal-collection. If you would rather the digital release, go to https://newvellerecords.bandcamp.com/album/there-is-a-dance.
Enjoy the gospel-blues of "When You Were Blind":