New York-born, Seattle-based keyboardist/composer Wayne Horvitz leads an eclectic variety of projects, including his chamber-esque Gravitas Quartet, which recently released a second recording, One Dance Alone (Songlines, 2008). His sublime semi-acoustic ensemble, Sweeter Than The Day, arose in 1999 from the ashes of his heavily electrified, Meters-inspired quartet, Zony Mash.
Sweeter Than The Day's third recording and first self-released album, A Walk In The Dark, follows the same melodically distinct contours as Sweeter Than The Day (Songlines, 2002) and the quartet's debut Forever (Songlines, 2000). Initially established as an outlet for Horvitz's acoustic piano playing, Sweeter Than The Day has become his most appealing project, realizing the inviting qualities of his writing with an ideal blend of the serene and the animated.
Featuring long-standing members, bassist Keith Lowe and guitarist Timothy Young, and new drummer Eric Eagle, the quartet interprets Horvitz's evocative compositions with the harmonic sophistication of a jazz ensemble and incisive vigor of a seasoned bar band.
Setting aside his arsenal of analog keyboards, Horvitz reveals a wealth of possibilities on piano. Economic and lyrical, his delicate touch invokes the reflective euphony of the French Impressionists on "Undecided." Bluesy expressionism is aroused on "A Walk In The Rain," while "Between The Floors" and "To a Toaster" expose his cubist, bebop roots. The title track and "We Never Met" reveal Horvitz's singular cinematic style, a harmonious permutation of unsentimental, bittersweet nostalgia.
A stalwart sideman since his tenure in Zony Mash, guitarist Timothy Young is the quartet's most dynamic performer. Young waxes poetic with lilting, Frisellian subtlety on "Waltz From Woman of Tokyo," and burns bright on "Between The Floors," where he discharges tart, sizzling cadences. His bristling outburst on Horvitz's dedication to pianist Andrew Hill, "A Moment For Andrew," builds from searing to coruscating.
Keith Lowe and Eric Eagle are a versatile and tight rhythm section, capable of tasteful finesse and taut, in-the-pocket grooves. Their hushed contributions to "Undecided" and "Good Shepherd" border on the subconscious. Conversely, they fashion noir-ish roadhouse blues on "A Walk In The Rain," angular post-bop on "Between The Floors" and hypnotic funk on "Inference."
A rich blend of winsome, folksy Americana, pastoral impressionism and edgy post-bop, A Walk In The Dark charts a cinematic path across the Heartland, embracing the depths of American music traditions.
Personnel: Wayne Horvitz: piano; Timothy Young: electric guitar; Keith Lowe: contrabass; Eric Eagle: drums.