David Binney: Graylen Epicenter (2011)
19th-century German novelist Berthold Auerbach is long forgotten by the masses in modern day society, but his best-known quote about music, "Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life," still lives on but pays no mind to the fact that some of the finest music can be reflective of everyday life.
The human population experiences a daily yin and yang built of creation and destruction, hope and despair, joy and anger, simplicity and complexity, order and chaos, and a variety of other contrasting principles. Alto saxophonist David Binney's Graylen Epicenter is a microcosm of daily life, reflecting all of these opposing ideals, as presented through this fascinating music.
While each of the album's ten pieces bears its own unique fingerprint, virtually every composition is built on tectonic aural plates that shift, connect, and overlap in endlessly fascinating combinations. Binney drew up the blueprint for each massive musical edifice, but his construction crew of able-bodied musicians helps him with the hard labor as it makes music that sounds like the aural equivalent of M.C. Escher's "House Of Stairs."
The slash-and-burn attitude that defined Aliso (Criss Cross, 2010) is replaced by broader evolutionary arcs and more detailed arrangements, with the opening tracks providing prime examples of Binney's bold vision. "All Of Time" covers everything from paranoid guitar and piano runs, alternating with more relaxed horn lines, to drum team tantrums, courtesy of Brian Blade and Dan Weiss. The title track begins in a structured, if dizzying, environment, before descending into an arrhythmic netherworld. Then Gretchen Parlato's voice shines like a light in the darkness, as she leads the way out of that world, and back to a different reality.
Rough and tumble soloing still finds its way into the music, despite the dense, layered dwellings of Binney's design, and hearing a saxophone and piano dialog over noisy funk in fifteen ("Equality At Low Levels") or some head-to-head solo trading between Binney and tenor saxophonist Chris Potter ("Terrorists And Movie Starts"), is just as enjoyable as soaking in the more cerebral aspects of each performance.
In many places, Parlato's vocal purity is used in horn player fashion, but "Home" is the biggest exception. While Binney has recorded this piece on other occasions, Parlato's lyrics and skills in mood setting help to make this the loveliest version on record. Parlato's unique contributions are an important part of Binney's musical vision, but she is just one of many talented musicians on this outing. Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire's playing is central to the success of "Waking To Waves," guitarist Wayne Krantz provides some killer lines over grooving drums on "From This Far," and pianist Craig Taborn delivers everything from pulsating lines to pummeling hailstorms.
With a talent roster as deep as the ocean, Graylen Epicenter defines itself as ground zero for the creative music community but, more importantly, it presents ten pieces that highlight the vast talents of the ever-impressive David Binney.
Track Listing: All of Time; Graylen Epicenter; Equality at Low Levels; Everglow; From This Far; Terrorists and Movie Stars; Same Stare, Different Thought; Home; Any Years Costume; Waking to Waves.
Personnel: David Binney: alto and soprano saxophones, vocal; Gretchen Parlato: vocal; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Craig Taborn: piano; Wayne Krantz: guitar; Eivind Opsvik: bass; Brian Blade: drums (1-4, 6, 8-10); Dan Weiss: drums (1, 5, 6, 9, 10); Kenny Wollesen: percussion, vibes; Rogerio Boccato: percussion; Nina Geiger: vocal harmony (10).