...Awaits Silent Tristero's Empire
is an epic four-part suite based on the fictitious songs found scattered throughout celebrated author Thomas Pynchon's early novels V.
, The Crying of Lot 49
, and Gravity's Rainbow
. Oboist Kyle Bruckmann conceived this post-modern "musical phantasmagoria" as the first long-form composition written for Wrack, his experimental chamber jazz ensemble, employing an expanded version of the long-standing unit to realize the project's pan-stylistic scope.
A former Chicago resident, Bruckmann relocated to San Francisco after the turn of the Millennium, though the majority of Wrack's personnel is still based in the Windy City. Bruckmann recruited fellow Bay Area trumpeter Darren Johnston
and former Wrack member trombonist Jeb Bishop
to join the core lineup of bass clarinetist Jason Stein
, violist Jen Clare Paulson, bassist Anton Hatwich
, and percussionist Tim Daisy
for this expansive recording.
The suite's varied themes were composed by Bruckmann after studying the absurd, often genre-specific song lyrics found in the aforementioned novels. To effectuate this irreverently eclectic world-view, Bruckmann juxtaposes myriad old-fashioned vernacular forms with contrapuntal motifs and free-form improvisations, shifting between approaches and styles with mercurial glee, subtly implying Pynchon's referential literary gamesmanship with a slyly sophisticated sense of humor.
The album opens with a brusque "Overture" before the ensemble swings decisively into "Part One (V.)," led by Johnston's madcap Raymond Scott
-inspired brass salvos and Daisy's roiling trap set variations. The marathon first part ultimately culminates in a swaggering blues vamp dominated by Bishop's garrulous trombone, with a slew of stylistic detours in-between, including an aleatoric diversion for reeds; a lush ballad interlude; and a jubilant polka featuring spirited call-and-response interplay.
The remainder of the opus pitches thither and yon. "Part Two (The Crying of Lot 49)" begins introspectively, emulating the book's paranoid conspiracies in neo-classical mode; Hatwich and Paulson's sinewy ruminations slowly morph into a sinuous groove for the leader's skirling oboe, eventually climaxing with a rollicking feature for Stein's vociferous bass clarinet and Daisy's exhilarating coda. The final section, "Part Three (Gravity's Rainbow)," vacillates wildly between the sacred and profane, encapsulating everything from nostalgic carnival tunes to bristling collective improvisations, concluding in an opulent, hymn-like chorale.
A devotee of Charles Ives
and the maximalist aesthetics of the early Downtown scene, Bruckmann has long demonstrated a penchant for stylistic diversity, but never with the sort of accessible dynamism presented here. Fortified by his bandmates' inspired virtuosity, ...Awaits Silent Tristero's Empire
is a post-modern masterpiece that stands as one of Bruckmann's most ambitious and fully-realized efforts to date.