Brooklyn-based Jacob Garchik's The Heavens
(The Atheist Gospel Trombone Album) recalls the prose of author James Weldon Johnson's famous 1927 book of poetry, God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse
. where Garchik's stunning trombone work is likened to the poem's protagonist: a charismatic preacher with the ability to deliver awestruck messages. Garchik's trombone is the messenger, yielding powerful orations that are spirited and persuasive, like a sentence taken from Weldon's book that reads:
"He intoned, he moaned, he pleaded-he blared, he crashed, he thundered. I sat fascinated; and more, I was, perhaps against my will, deeply moved."
This solo project is fitting to that description; Garchik's horns exhibit a wide range of emotions and timbres ,with a nine-part suite inspired by his love for gospel and religious music, with diverse influences such the Golden Gate Quartet, a groundbreaking African American vocal group in the 1930s. The recording features up to eight trombones, two baritones, two sousaphones, and a cameo by a pint-sized-sounding slide trumpet, all performed and recorded by Garchik. His horn's soliloquy is sweet harmony in "Creation's Creations," hearkening back to the days of tent meetings and backwoods churches, as well as a nod to a quote by British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who provoked the question of whether creation needed a creator. Or the horn shouts of "The Problem with Suffering," where the sounds include muted horns, growls, and sirens, in a bouncy gyration that's totally hip. Whether or not the suite serves as food for thought, its results are sumptuous.
Garchik's mastery of these instruments is superior. In each part and movement, he exploits their intricacies with exhausting detail with charts that are vibrantly deep. There's sweetness in "Dialogue with my Great-Grandfather" and determination in "Digression on the History of Jews and Black Music" that is sonorous and emotive, as well as the "Holy Ghost" revival in "Glory/Infinity/Nothing" where the bass horn leads the others into frenetic yet controlled dance.
The music seems be an almost lost art form, yet thankfully still heard at times on the streets corners of New Orleans, or venues and events where musicians still carry forth the tradition. One listen to the recording's heavenly title track and it's clear that Garhick has not forgotten. This suite is the result of an artist who has listened, studied, and put in the hard work; one that culminates into a joyous listening experience.