Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Will Mason Ensemble: Beams of the Huge Night

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
New York City resident Will Mason, while pursuing a Ph.D. in music at Columbia University, took the time to submerge himself in the most Spartan and remote conditions of his native Maine for the inspirations of nature that become manifest in Beams of the Huge Night. The drummer and composer assembled an unusually populated septet to give life to a generous sixty-six minutes of sound and music, capturing the volatility and tranquility of true seclusion.

Mason, who also fronts a noise-metal band, has an acute talent for composing very complex, extended pieces, creating an absorbing synthesis of jazz, technology, classicalism and an organic construction that includes any or all of those components. The ensemble includes oboist Stuart Breczinski who fits in well with the idiosyncratic program despite playing an instrument that rarely appears in jazz. Nina Moffitt supplies mostly wordless vocals that often simulate the effect of an additional woodwind instrument. Moffitt has recorded with her own quintet lending her unique vocalizations to a diverse range of compositions from Ravi Coltrane to Billy Strayhorn.

The other reed instrument on hand is Danny Fisher-Lochhead's alto saxophone. A multi-instrumentalist having also recorded a solo Wurlitzer album Piano Songs (Fishkill Records, 2015), Lochhead is particularly at home with the type of material on Beams of the Huge Night. His own namesake large ensemble outing, the engrossing Tools Of The Abstract (Fishkill Records, 2015), while more directly jazz oriented, features similar components of complex multi-layered improvisation in the extended format.

The string contingent consist of two guitarists, Travis Reuter and Andrew Smiley, and bassist Dan Stein. Reuter leads his own quintet and has a long-term performance commitment with Arturo O'Farrill's sextet. Smiley has recorded two albums as part of the eclectic quartet Little Women, a group that includes alto saxophonist Darius Jones. Stein (another multi-instrumentalist) has played in trumpeter Kenny Rampton's ensemble along with saxophonist Donny McCaslin. Stein has also performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center and as part of the Juilliard Jazz Ensembles tour.

Beams of the Huge Night opens with the sixteen-plus minute "Finn" and the composition serves as the showpiece of the album, bringing together Mason's ideas on the conflicting characteristics of untainted nature. Slowly washing in and patiently building on drums, reeds and voice, the full ensemble soon becomes apparent as the tone shifts to a frenetic pace. Mason, Reuter and Smiley imperceptibly move to a rock rhythm that the reeds seem to resist before falling into lockstep, then breaking out in free style. By the half-way point, another shift has taken place; one that conveys the dark trepidation of being lost deep in the night wood. Passages vanish without a trace as "Finn" goes through more stylistic fluctuations as it progresses.

"Door 6" has a rock drive to it but with Moffitt's ethereal prescience floating above the surface, it's never predictable as to where the piece will settle. In contrast, "Door 7" has a decidedly more delicate quality before the pace ratchets up near the conclusion. "Dixfield, ME.," another extended piece at almost sixteen minutes, opens in a lyrical, almost fragile manner then shatters in a high-energy improvisation dominated by Fisher-Lochhead, Reuter and Smiley. It is again Moffitt's voice that seems to bring free-for-all back to a centered place only to lose it to a tense, spikey configuration of guitars and saxophone. Named for a small town in northern Maine "Strong, ME." is a dream-like melody where the contrasting guitar harmonies add a disconcerting instability to the atmosphere.

Another long composition, "Brille," concludes Beams of the Huge Night. Mason's booming drums and Stein's deep bass belie the coming free improvisation that overtakes the piece. But like all the compositions on the album, everything changes and we find ourselves in a tranquil, pastoral setting at about six minutes in. The piece closes with mix of regality and rebellion, all somehow staying on point.

Beams of the Huge Night is a sprawling, ambitious project and Mason has a unique musical vision in the midst of a highly intricate creative process. He successfully seizes on the ambiances of positive and negative natural environments and conveys them with help of this empathetic and very talented group of musicians. This is an unusual album; one where it would be as easy to become as lost as it would be in the woods of northern Maine were it not for an expert guide like Mason.

Track Listing: Finn; Door 6; Door 7; Dixfield, ME.; Strong, ME.; Brille.

Personnel: Stuart Breczinski: oboe; Daniel Fisher-Lochhead: alto saxophone; Nina Moffitt: voice; Travis Reuter: guitar; Andrew Smiley: guitar; Dan Stein: bass; Will Mason: drums.

Title: Beams of the Huge Night | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: New Amsterdam Records



comments powered by Disqus


Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard Album Reviews
Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard
By Mark Sullivan
January 16, 2019
Read SJZ Collective Reimagines Monk Album Reviews
SJZ Collective Reimagines Monk
By Doug Collette
January 16, 2019
Read Swingin' In Seattle, Live At The Penthouse 1966-1967 Album Reviews
Swingin' In Seattle, Live At The Penthouse 1966-1967
By Mike Jurkovic
January 16, 2019
Read Hydro 2 Album Reviews
Hydro 2
By Vitalijus Gailius
January 16, 2019
Read Heritage Album Reviews
By Tyran Grillo
January 15, 2019
Read Do Not Be Afraid Album Reviews
Do Not Be Afraid
By Gareth Thompson
January 15, 2019
Read Fairgrounds Album Reviews
By Roger Farbey
January 15, 2019

Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/websites/ on line 5