Anna Webber's Simple Trio with Matt Mitchell & John Hollenbeck: Binary

John Sharpe By

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Anna Webber's Simple Trio with Matt Mitchell & John Hollenbeck: Binary
If there were a prize for avoiding the obvious, then Brooklyn-based Canadian saxophonist and flautist Anna Webber would be a prime contender. In an effort to take the road less travelled, Webber has used internet-sourced inspiration, including a random binary digit generator, a website that turns words into drumbeats, and even her own IP address, to develop the 11 compositions on Binary, the sophomore outing from her Simple Trio.

In a line up unchanged since their eponymous debut Webber, flanked by Claudia Quintet drummer John Hollenbeck and in demand pianist Matt Mitchell, creates a bewildering tapestry of staggered metrical layers which are not quite unisons but nor totally out of phase. When she isn't holding down rhythmic pulses as part of the structural fabric, Webber's lines veer between throaty falsetto wailing and swirling legato. But whatever she does fully exploits the weird tonalities she unleashes from her instruments.

Perhaps because both Mitchell and Hollenbeck are accomplished bandleaders in their own rights, they execute Webber's intricate charts in a way which makes them seem natural and their wayward logic seem inevitable. Mitchell excels whether in the reflective passages, like that towards the end of the stop start "Impulse Purchase" or in full blooded two handed grooves, like that in "Underhelmed," which bring Craig Taborn to mind. For his part Hollenbeck demonstrates effortless prowess, embellishing his on the dime cadences with inventive use of pitch and texture.

Webber's witty titles give an indication of the smarts in play. Half the numbers comprises a series of short "Rectangles" scattered through the program, bursting with jagged lurches and subtly modulating patterns. Webber erects a latticework of repeating beats which remain unpredictable because of the sudden suspensions and flourishes.

After an unrelenting opening sequence, the first change of pace comes with "Rectangles 1b" with its tinkling chimes, clattery thumps and false fingered tenor bleating. Thereafter "Tug O' War" evokes Anthony Braxton with the leader's flute zipping between registers and alternating butterfly like glides and sharp angular turns, while the title number builds to a triumphant but skewed ballad styling, after Mitchell's Satie-esque intro.

To sum up in digital terms: 1+1+1=5. Simple.

Track Listing

Rectangles 2; Impulse Purchase; Rectangles 3a; Rectangles 1b; Underhelmed; Tug O' War; Rectangles 3b; Binary; Meme; Disintegratiate; Rectangles 3c; Rectangles 1a.


Anna Webber: tenor saxophone, flute; Matt Mitchell: piano; John Hollenbeck: drums.

Album information

Title: Binary | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Skirl Records


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