Ergo: Quality Anatomechanical Music Since 2005 (2006)
Ergo, lead by Brett Sroka, has been performing for about a year, and Quality Anatomechanical Music Since 2005 is a terrific album of sounds, moods and emotions. The trio is completed by Carl Maguire, who recently released the outstanding Floriculture (Between the Lines, 2005), on various electronic keyboards and synthesizers; and Damion Reid, a very fine drummer who had very close relationship with Billy Higgins and has appeared on Robert Glasper's Canvas (Blue Note, 2005).
As you might be able to tell from the title, this music is not anything that you might hear at Jazz at Lincoln Center, or your local mainstream radio station, for that matter. Labels are only as good as the information they provide, so saying it is on the "fringes of jazz" or "beyond jazz" is a bit meaningless, but suffice it to say that there are a lot of electronics beyond what a Fender Rhodes can do, and there is nothing remotely close to a 32-bar AABA structure to be found here.
You are entering a sonic universe, but more importantly, a music which reveals itself as most definitely structured and well thought out. As much as you can just revel in the sounds on this record, a little close listening will uncover memorable themes which develop over time. Each track has a life cycle which carries it forward, so rather than just spacing or tripping out for the duration, this music can be followed and appreciated.
The action is not in the form of soloing in the normal sense, but rather a collage of sounds, with Maguire's keyboards and synthesizer creating a bottomless ocean or an endless expanse of space (depending on which way your mind works) punctuated by flashes of light from Reid's cymbals. Within this dense flux floats Sroka's trombone (when he plays) at various distances from the front of the mix.
Sroka's trombone rarely sounds immediately recognizable as such, except on "Trees On Top Of Buildings" and "Salt," where not only the sound, but also the phrasing and meter of his lines become almost regular. When this happens, and Maguire does it too, it jumps out and almost feels out of place.
Reid's drumming is everywhere, and he provides a kind of glue which holds things together. Much of the music has no pulse, and so Reid provides more a layer of percussion than drums per se. In "Metaphilia," for example, his lower sounds work with the low tones of the keyboards, while the cymbals interact with the higher ones.
Many types of jazz allow you to lose yourself within them, and Quality Anatomechanical Music Since 2005 most certainly does that, but from quite a different angle. Recommended.
Track Listing: Elephants (& Sycophants); Cecropia Song (for Janna); Salt; Metaphilia; "Today The Americans"; Earthlings; Trees On Top Of Buildings.
Personnel: Brett Sroka: trombone, computer; Carl Maguire: Rhodes electric piano, Prophet synthesizer, electronic effects; Damion Reid: drums.