Listeners familiar with David Binney's Welcome to Life (Mythology, 2004), Bastion of Sanity (Criss Cross, 2005) or even the wonderful South (ACT, 2001) might be a bit surprised by the extent of the use of electronics on Out of Airplanes, which continues to explore his eclectic, yet recognizable musical style. Fear not though, their use is subordinated to the music, and the album is extremely satisfying.
Binney has pulled together a stellar supporting group (it cannot be called a band) with guitarist Bill Frisell, acoustic and electric keyboardist Craig Taborn, acoustic and electric bassist Eivind Opsvik, and drummer Kenny Wollesen. Adam Rogers adds a second guitar on "Out of Airplanes" and "Wild Child."
The album has a dreamy, floating quality, primarily caused by a lack of strict structure within the individual pieces, which still form a thread of consciousness. The tracks tend to evolve, with sections merging into one another. There is also a conscious attempt to avoid soloing or playing lines and a sense of peace and calm, even euphoria, permeates the album as a whole. "Jan Mayen," the ballad on the record, has a gorgeous theme, but its structure is not normal and it flows like a wide, calm river.
The title track, which is just over ten minutes long, is a good example. There are three main sections which flow into each other. The first opens with a "typical" Binney theme played by alto and guitar over repeating scales and arpeggios that create an atmosphere of mystery; it's followed by a dreamy section marked by tinkling chimes and Frisell's swelling guitar. Frisell, who surely does not play lines, hints at the theme that will make up the next section, leading to it being taken up by Taborn, then seconded by Binney and repeated as an anthem, a technique also used on the end of "Home."
The three completely improvised tracks, "Brainstorms pt 1 & 2" and "Bring Your Dream," feature the most electronics and sound processing, and they sound very much like their titles, especially the latter.
The download version of this recording features an extra track, "London by Night," which will not be available on the CD. It sounds completely different from the other pieces, and it could actually belong to a different album altogether. The bonus track has much more of the typically intense, highly chromatic, modern New York sound, and it really burns. Maybe this is what Binney will up to next... who knows?
A real project, Out of Airplanes is much more than a mere collection of tracks. Leave your preconceptions of what jazz should be, or even what Binney is all about, and let these sounds take you away on a trip you just might really need.
Out Of Airplanes is currently available as a download from Binney's web site; the hard copy version will become available in August, 2006.
Track Listing: Brainstorms pt.1; Contributors; Jan Mayen; Out of Airplanes; The Forgotten Gems; Wild Child; Home; Brainstorms pt. 2; Bring Your Dream; Instant Distance; extra download track - London By Night.
Personnel: David Binney: alto saxophone; Bill Frisell: guitar; Craig Taborn: piano, organ, synthesizers;
Eivind Opsvik: acoustic and electric bass, glockenspiel; Kenny Wollesen: drums, percussion;
Adam Rogers: guitar (4,6).