George Schuller's Circle Wide: Like Before, Somewhat After (2008)
This writer's familiarity with the physical concept known as dewpoint is as extensive as can be expected from someone who spent much of her science classes with a literary magazine hidden underneath her notebook. "Dewpoint," the appropriately titled opening track of the sophomore release of George Schuller's Circle Wide, is perhaps as elucidating as any semester-long course in conveying what it means to reaching a threshold of precise saturation, neither failing to live up to the bar set high nor causing discomfort by reaching too high and producing a work of pretentious chaos.
"Dewpoint" is one of two original tracks on the record, the others respectful but bold reinterpretations of pieces by Keith Jarrett's American Quartet. "Dewpoint" showcases no gradual crescendo; from the first note, the bulging, swollen sax notes of Donny McCaslin and Tom Beckham's understated velvety vibes testify to a diligent vision of what a solid piece should sound likeimportant but subtly mischievous. It is the precision with which all the instruments collide with elegant eccentricity that makes "Dewpoint" so enjoyable. Nothing is too over-the-top and although McCaslin clearly steals the show, he does so in an impressively understated way. Listeners won't have a problem picking out the powerful presence of the other instruments.
The first few seconds of "De Drums" deliver one of the most exciting moments of the album, presenting slow, steady notes that don't explode their potential immediately, creating a sense of anticipation that is teased, steadily and expertly, by Jamey Haddad's slinky percussion, authoritative sax harmonies and playfully somber drums. There is a pause of almost insignificant duration less than halfway into the track which allows you to sneak in a breath before taking in the rest of the track.
It might seem like adulation of the highest order to state that by the end of the piece, heart rates will quicken and pupils will dilate, but why not praise what is praiseworthy? Increased heart rate is nothing but a physical symptom of something called love and falling in love with Like Before, Somewhat After is one physical phenomenon that even the left-brained among us can understand with ease.
Track Listing: Dew Point; Common Mama; The Survivors' Suite, Part One; The Survivors' Suite, Part Two; Rotation; De Drums; Back To School; Encore, b.
Personnel: Donny McCaslin: tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute; Brad Shepik: guitar; Tom Beckham: vibes; Dave Ambrosio: bass; George Schuller: drums and percussion; Jamey Haddad: percussion (2-4, 6, 7).
Record Label: Playscape Recordings