Guitarist Scott Burton's compositions are as natural and uncontrived as his guitar playing: they work seamlessly with meaning and breadth. The debut record from his quintet, Glows in the Dark, features eight originals by the guitarist. Often shifting from dire marches to vicious free jazz to driving punk beats, the music never freezes. It would be unfair to categorize the album by these extremes alone, for there is so much more in between.
Burton's arrangements for his groupReginald Pace (trombone/percussion), Jason Arce (saxophone), Cameron Ralston (bass), Scott Clark (drumsfrequently follow very logical patterns. He often writes for partnerships of instruments, letting two timbres play the same thingor harmonies of the same thingto create a distinct sound. When there are two pairs of these instrument marriages playing different things, the overlapping of the lines works effortlessly.
On "Through a Glass Darkly," a hypnotic guitar and sax line syncopates under a driving bass and trombone rhythm before a relentless guitar dramatically struggles to fight off drums and bass. As the album's insert suggests, images of a giant snake being slain by a cartoonish adventurer come to mind while listening.
Head-bobbing to the James Brown-like beat and cyclonic bass and guitar unison of "Turtle" is unavoidable. The beat decomposes into a cacophonic discussion free of meter. Burton here sounds like a child picked up a guitar for the first time in between spurts of bluesy runs as the rhythm section shares the same spirit. The result is wonderfully playful.
The compositions never rush to find a new groove or a new set of harmony to work with. The time spent on a section lets each solo develop and build a bridge to the next theme. The soloists use each solo to work with what he's been given, expand on that effectively, and lead the group head first into whatever is next.
Pace branches out on "Warren Oates" and paves a path for the next movement of the suite dedicated to the late actor. Arce is electrifying over the energetic groundwork set by the rhythm section.
On "Up and Down," the saxophone floats over the tranquil scene set by the bass's unadulterated long tones, the guitar's finger picking ostinato, and the touch of brushes on the drums. Perhaps suggesting the tune's title, trombone and saxophone share a solo trading section. Pace's playing is ultimately driven by sharp rhythmic phrases, and Arce here joins Pace with exploratory melodic playing over exciting rhythms.
At some points, especially at the top of some tracks, the hum of electronics slightly mars the output of a mostly acoustic band. When the music gets going, though, it rarely retracts from the sound that this band has made it's own. This album beautifully captures the tone given by the band live. Taking the group's name perhaps too literally, it really does sound like an unlit room illuminated by only a chemical glow.
Personnel: Scott Burton: guitar; Reginald Pace: trombone, percussion; Jason Arce: saxophone; Scott Clark: drums; Cameron Ralston: bass.