Trombonist and composer Jacob Garchik is versatile and restlessly inventive. His past work has ranged from a brass-only orchestra to a guitar-heavy ensemble as well as a unique take on gospel music. His sixth release, the provocative Assembly, evokes film soundtracks with a touch of fantasy. The nine originals make a cohesive whole with a creative momentum which does not slack.
The opening track "Collage" has two distinct layers; in the background Garchik and soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome engage in a boppish duet over percolating beats; overlaid on this are the group's tense and symphonic refrains which boom and roar. The two diverse styles form a musical version of the title, and juxtapose in stimulating contrast.
The following track, "Pastiche," launches with an intense head, drummer Dan Weiss driving the tune with his thundering polyrhythms. Garchik takes center stage, improvising with elegance and passion over Weiss and bassist Thomas Morgan's tight, hypnotic, vamps. Pianist Jacob Sacks punctuates the interplay with block chords before taking off on a breathtakingly agile performance as the rest of the quintet follows a pace or two behind.
Morgan's thumping lines and Newsome's muscular, elastic phrases engage in a blues-tinged dialogue on "Bricolage." Weiss and Garchik fade in and out of the conversation. Newsome's extemporization grows more dissonant, and concludes the track on a melancholic note.
Sacks' crystalline pianism marks the haunting "Idee Fixe," with its eloquence, as the horns play the repetitive motif in unison. Over Garchik and Newsome's repeating bars, Sacks, Weiss and Morgan take turns with brief solos. Sacks' extemporization remains rooted in the mainstream with a delightfully angular edge.
Meanwhile, "Fantasia" showcases Garchik at his most innovative. It is a sonic experimentation with Garchik and Newsome overlapping mesmerizing sound effects. Within this atmosphere a trombone-led quartet plays a very "traditional" soulful and spontaneous melody with a laid back cadence. The otherworldly electronic sounds fade in and out, sometimes drowning the other component of the piece while at other times being overcome by it.
Garchik's oeuvre continues to change and mature with each new album. Assembly is rooted in previous recordings and is refreshingly novel. It is another highlight in a uniformly superb career, and a milestone in Garchik's growth as a composer, band leader and improviser.
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