Trumpeter André Canniere's debut is aural evidence that good things can descend from the Ivory Tower. Every one of the players on As of Yet is an Eastman School of Music grad (Canniere in 2003), but they transcend the typical stereotypes often associated with university-trained musicians, the most common being that they "think" the music, rather than "feel" it. As this album shows, much of what used to be considered academic music has now been assimilated by a new generation of musicians who are as comfortable on the fringes as they are in the pocket. (In the interest of full disclosure, I've known several of these players for years.)
The recording opens with the title track, a slowly building collection of intricate melodies over a rock-solid bass line from Ike Sturm. Canniere and saxophonist Josh Rutner step into the ring to bob and weave around each other as the piece builds to a climax. The loose but intricate tune would be quite at home on a Dave Douglas or Ben Allison record.
Rutner opens "Bridges" in Brecker-Berg stylean aspect of his playing that's come out more in his Latin work than in his main band, The Respect Sextet. The loping gospel melody is propelled by the rolling drums of Ted Poor, who's been making a name for himself over the past few years in a trio led by trumpeter Cuong Vu.
"Accelerated Decrepitude" has a Balkan-influenced melody that leads into strong trumpet work from Canniere. Guitarist Ryan Ferreira opens the piece with long attack-less tones, then switches to pointed comping under the solos.
One programmatic issue with the record is a preponderance of slow, airy tunes. After the opening two tracks, the disc could probably have done without "The Rest," another slow creeper. Cutting it, though, would mean doing without Ferreira's pointillistic and lovely guitar solo. It's not surprising that Ferreira is Canniere's guitarist of choice, given the trumpeter's previous work with Ben Monder, another guitarist who works wonders with wide-open spaces.
The CD closes with three live tracks of better-than-bootleg quality recorded at various New York City clubs in 2005. Ryan Ferreira mutates into a different creature on "Thirteenth Species." Gone is the Frisell sound and Mack truck-sized space between each note, replaced by a driving fuzz chop that propels Rutner to screaming heights. Then the music takes another left turn and Poor and Ferreira start a monstrous Metallica march behind Canniere's solo. Heady stuff. Live versions of "As of Yet and "Accelerated Decrepitude close the recording.
Despite a few more slow spots than necessary, As of Yet is a strong opening statement from Canniere, who has immersed himself in the New York scene with everyone from Maria Schneider and Donny McCaslin to the Westchester Chamber Orchestra and the New York Repertory Orchestra. His debut gives listeners a reason to wait at the bottom of the Ivory Tower to see what else might come down from the hallowed halls of academia.
As of Yet; Bridges; Accelerated Decrepitude; The Rest; Thirteenth Species (live); As of Yet (live); Accelerated Decrepitude (live).
Andre Canniere: trumpet; Josh Rutner: tenor saxophone; Ryan Ferreira: guitar; Ike Sturm: bass; Ted Poor: drums.
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