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Collin Sherman: Arc of a Slow Decline

Dan McClenaghan By

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Collin Sherman: Arc of a Slow Decline
Music is typically a collaborative affair. A given number of players comes together and each takes a part in the shaping of a particular sound. Teamwork is the word. But sometimes a musician just has to go it alone and—in this technological age that allows such things—the recording then collaging and layering of sounds creates an ensemble work. Music lovers of a certain age may remember Paul McCartney's McCartney (Apple, 1970) as a groundbreaker in this style of expression.

With the release of his eleventh album, Arc Of A Slow Decline, New York-based Collin Sherman has turned this mode of operation into a high, fine art.

And what tag can we hang on Sherman's art? "Free jazz" fits fairly well, although the music here is more melodic than much that can be found in that genre, especially on the first disc of the two CD set, beginning with the catchy sound of the opener, "Prey Upon The Flock." Sherman seems primarily a reedist—Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, alto and soprano saxophones. A vibraphone glows up out of the mix. There are electronic flourishes and rhythms—mysterious things (to many of us) such as the Pittsburgh Modular SV-1, FXpansion BFD3, a Make Noise O-Coach, a Soniccouture Hammersmith, Korg Volca Keys (processed), a Moog Sub 37, a Nyckelharpas... enough strange names to make the electronically unsophisticated among us wonder if Collin Sherman is putting us on. A swing through a quick Google search suggests otherwise. So does the music.

Sherman's sound, on CD 1, is something like a mixture of Ornette Coleman's free jazz and George Russell's more "out there" offerings. These are concise and fluid sounds, a weird beauty dancing inside right-angled percussive architectures. CD 2 takes things—with either piano/bass/horns or drums and horns arrangements—into freer, sparser territory, beginning with the atmospheric "Space Between Carriers," which eventually takes on a neurotic edge with squabbling reeds and discordant piano, giving way to the murky, late night "Transit Paths," with its measured ranting of Sherman's alto saxophone over the ominous electro-drumming, while "Calculus of Unity" sounds like a music from a Middle Eastern bazaar, a cool-toned soundtrack to a surreal dream.

There is a dichotomy at work here. On the one hand, Arc Of A Slow Decline's approach seems to have a surface simplicity, making it immediately engaging; on another, there's a feeling that it contains a sublime underlying intent, a beauty within the freedom. Collin Sherman says: "Free improvisation is a search for truth and transcendental beauty." He is making that search alone, and succeeding nicely on Arc Of A Slow Decline.

Track Listing

Prey Upon the Flock; And Publius Recoils; Sycophant Parade; Compulsory Service; Night Port; Federal Occupation; Space Between Carriers; Transit Paths; Fury Spring; Calculus of Utility; Caesium Sculptures; Sequestration Blues; Polar Ticks.

Personnel

Collin Sherman: saxophone, alto.

Collin Sherman: soprano saxophone; clarinet; bass clarinet; keyboards/synthesizers; drum programming; electronics.

Album information

Title: Arc of a Slow Decline | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Extol Recordings

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