Matt Holman's Diversion Ensemble: When Flooded (2013)
It has been proven time and again that many a musician lacks true depth in the writing department, and many a writer lacks the chops and quick reflexes to sustain their musical ideas on their own, but Holman is high functioning in both areas. He has a gift for balancing the serene with the zany, while still addressing the importance of melody and lyricism in every aspect of his work. Holman creates a signature sound across this entire album, but no two numbers work the same angle. One piece rises from a state of collective repose to a firmer stance built around individual contributions ("Kindred Spirits") and another revolves around the connectivity forged between two parties ("Tandem"), but they both share the same compositional DNA. Even a piece as unwieldy and freewheeling as the feisty "Chain Of Command" comfortably fits into this collection.
While the trumpeter's writing creates a sense of unity across these tracks, his band also deserves a good deal of credit for bringing continuity into his creative process. Holman's helpers, collectively dubbed the Diversion Ensemble, marry a chamber jazz spirit with modernism as they wind their way through his music. The combination of trumpet, clarinet, cello, guitar and drums may look benign on paper, but music is only written on papyrus; it lives in the air. Holman's horn can be melodically direct or deceptive and cunning, and Mike McGinnis' clarinet can be friendly or fiendish. Guitarist Nate Radley brings dark shades into this music, as he provides textural elements that help to support Holman's compositions, and cellist Christopher Hoffman takes on the role of the musical chameleon, balancing bottom-end, bass-associated duties with melodic tasks and nebulous assignments. The final piece of the equation is drummer Ziv Ravitz, who is equally comfortable powering the unit with percussive zest ("Chain Of Command") or blending into the scenery.
When Flooded, when reduced to its essence, is all about balance. Subtlety and strength, transparency and veiled ideas, and fire and ice all exist in a state of engrossing equilibrium in Holman's work.
Track Listing: Kindred Spirits; Tutti; When Flooded; Chain Of Command; Tandem; Earworm; Between; Where The Track Ends; Syndrome.
Personnel: Matt Holman: trumpet; Mike McGinnis: clarinet, bass clarinet; Christopher Hoffman: cello; Nate Radley: guitar; Ziv Ravitz: drums, percussion.
Record Label: BJU Records