How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
While drummer Tyshawn Sorey has demonstrated his talent in many contexts, this is the first set of recordings dedicated to his own compositions. In the shadows of several established styles of improvisation/composition but beholden to none, it is one of the most shockingly bold debuts imaginable.
The title of the opening piece, "Leveled, says it all. It is as if the myriad traditions that inform these moments of energy-suffused introspection have quietly, gently, laid waste to the past that spawned them. Cymbal strokes emerge to decay just as quickly, piano pitches and clusters loom luminously and trombone tones are bent in a near-void that strips them, almost completely, of tradition. Almost, as the "Template series affords a glance backwards through the unlikely but effective medium of the phonograph; well-worn vinyl surface noise permeates, while never supplanting, the slow-faded snatches of sparse semi-groove and quasi-drone.
Sorey's sometimes malleted drums and deep cymbal rumbles anchor what might be a series of studio-created subtle sound experiments. Whether or no, the series connects the vast work, spread evenly over the two discs. They provide the most readily accessible moments, evoking convention through a constant sheen of subversion. The longer works conjure vast silences and force attention to minute detail, as with the stunningly slow and breathtakingly recorded 43-minute "Permutations ; revel in its overtones, the slow beats and swells that define its constantly morphing contours.
This is not to imply that the disc is all shadow and near-silent subtlety. The opening gesture of the first quartet piecewith Ben Gerstein (trombone), Corey Smythe (piano) and Thomas Morgan (bass)sports an astonishing trombone crescendo, rising from nothing to earsplitting proportions. Sorey's occasional thwacks, well-placed and startlingly effective, keep attention from wandering too far into any one timbre or moment. However, these gestures are, in fact, subservient to an aesthetic that demonstrates remarkable group restraint and an admirable willingness to listen and communicate accordingly. Solo contributions and collectivity merge, each voiding the other, so that as the impressionistic piano chords of "Commentary fade, the sense of having journeyed is as overwhelming as it is inspiring.
Track Listing: CD1: Leveled; Template I; Sympathy: Permutations For Solo Piano; Seven Pieces For Trombone Quartet; Template II. CD2: Sacred And Profane; Template III; Four Duos; Cell Block; That's A Blues, Right?; Template IV; Commentary.
Personnel: Ben Gerstein: trombone (CD1#1-2, CD1#5-6, CD2#1-3, CD2#5-6); Corey Smythe: piano (CD1#2-6, CD2#2, CD2#4-7), wurlitzer organ (CD2#3); Thomas Morgan: bass (CD1#1-3, CD1#5-6, CD2#1-6); Tyshawn Sorey: drums (CD1#1-3, CD1#5-6, CD2#1-6), piano (CD1#1, CD2#3).