Andy McWain Quartet: Starfish (2003)
If they gave a Grammy for music that demands and rewards the listener's attention, Starfish would be a sure nominee.
Andy McWain's piano work can be delicate and feather light, then seismically percussive, sometimes in the same song; and reedman Assif Tsahar (bass clarinet, tenor sax) sizzles then broods, propels while fresh ideas stab in from the other three corners. The impression that won't let go after multiple listenings is Classical music, modern mode; chamber sounds, with jazz teeth. No instrument dominates the mix; the ensemble is the instrument. The recent music of Vijay Iyer ( Panoptic Modes ) or The Maneri Ensemble ( Going to Church ) are probably the closest comparisons, but Starfish is denser, leaning more heavily on the melodic component, possessed of a strikingly intricate noir-ish beauty.
Dynamic sounds. Two cuts"Thorn Tea Jar" and "Pure Iris Chord"appear in two parts, separated on the CD. These cycles represent a revisitation of themes that may evolve in the direction of jazz suites.
McWain and crew are a phenomenon, a very exciting discovery.
Track Listing: Periodic Stasis Amid Torrent, Duo Interlude, Thorn Tea Jar (I), As a Starfish, Pure Iris Chord (I), Wind Can May, Toxins (Parts I-III), Thorn Tea Jar (II), Pure Iris Chord (II), Another Dynamic Starfish Precursor
Personnel: Andy McWain, piano; AssifTsahar, tenor sax and bass clarinet; Noah Jarrett, bass; Chris Poudrier, drums
Style: Modern Jazz