Tyshawn Sorey: Koan, The Winding Shell & Labyrinth
The Winding Shell
For decades, the trend has been for drummers in jazz to move away from timekeeping and towards a multi-faceted element of the ensemble's texture. This trend is particularly present on Tyshawn Sorey's new record Koan. The record is both a departure from the complex through-composed structures of his previous release That/Not and a continuation of the inquiry into the minimalist aesthetic that could be heard in Sorey's solo piano music. With the focus on creative interaction, the composer entered the studio with bassist Thomas Morgan and guitarist Todd Neufeld. The resulting textures evolve almost out of consensus rather than egoism, with Sorey's compositions functioning primarily as an environment in which the improvisers co-create. "Awakening" and "Only One Sky" float past the listener's consciousness with an air of introspection, setting the stage for the more eruptive arrival of "Correct Truth." The drums are notably absent in many places, such as the aptly named "Two Guitars." With austerity and restraint both as a composer and as a drummer, Sorey has created a contemplative riddle that effectively conjures both in the performers and the listener the purposeful purposelessness implied by the title.
Pianist and composer Jesse Elder's The Winding Shell has two sections. One features a quintet including Chris Tordini and Tyshawn Sorey in the rhythm section, with Logan Richardson on alto and either Gary Thomas, Chris Cheek or Jeremy Viner on tenor. The lush, intricate arrangements are filled with striking shifts in density, innovative counterpoint and incredible playing from the ensemble as a whole. The other half of the disc features four-hand piano improvisations with pianist Aya Nishina. The musical synergy between Elder and Nishina is palpable, with an emphasis on lyrical dialogue and cryptic soundscapes.
Saxophonist Jacam Manricks works as a soloist in small and large jazz groups, with a resume that includes Ray Charles, Jeff 'Tain' Watts and Dave Liebman. Labyrinth is Manricks' second record as a leader and features Ben Monder, Jacob Sacks, Thomas Morganand Tyshawn Sorey. The writing displays a vast knowledge of harmony and phrasing, with an ear for stately melodic gesture. The record has something of a deceptive opening in "Portal," with Sacks' fitful interjections of angularity contrasting with the melody's gradual push towards order. This sense of order and attention to detail remain a focus as the disc continues. Pieces like the title track, "Move On" and "Closer" mix intricate melodies with tight ensemble grooves. "March & Combat" conjures the juxtaposition its title suggests, with a rigid march feel that is often overcome by virtuosic solos and a chaotic drum feature at the end. The record ends with "Rothko," a subtle progression of harmonies that proceeds at a glacial pace, calling to mind the cryptic work of its namesake.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Awakening; Only One Sky; Correct truth; Nocturnal; Two Guitars; Embed.
Personnel: Tyshawn Sorey: drums; Thomas Morgan: bass, guitar; Todd Neufeld: guitar.
The Winding Shell
Tracks: Surrender; Solar Plexus; The Thoughtful Nudge; Flight Of The Pelican; Rotating Canvases; Kiss Rain; Red Paint; The Winding Shell; All Moments; I; II; III; IV.
Personnel: Logan Richardson: alto saxophone; Gary Thomas: tenor saxophone; Jess Elder: piano; Christopher Tordini: bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums; Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone; Jeremy Viner: tenor saxophone; Aya Nishina: piano.
Tracks: Portal; Micro-Gravity; Labyrinth; Move; Cloisters; Aeronautics; March & Combat; Rothko.
Personnel: Jacam Manricks: saxophone; Ben Monder: guitar; Jacob Sacks: piano; Thomas Morgan: bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.