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...


Cory Smythe: Circulate Susanna

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
Cory Smythe tells stories. About stories. Specifically, a father's tales in the rural heartland of America; ingredients that a listener might assume had shaped Smythe's imagination in ways that go far beyond music. But like the Stephen Foster discs spinning on the gramophone as a tornado approaches, Smythe's nostalgic and inspirational world is liner-note fantasy. Nevertheless, on Circulate Susanna those flights of fancy have manifested themselves in a near-indescribable collection of compositions and improvisations. There are hints of western swing, bits of psychedelia, microtonal scales, and what Smythe describes as "an alien Alan Lomax field recording."

Smythe is a superb pianist and eclectic composer. His jazz resume includes recordings with Anthony Braxton, Vijay Iyer and Tyshawn Sorey, and he has performed to outstanding reviews with classical violinist Hilary Hahn at the Kennedy Center. Smythe won a Grammy in 2015 for Best Chamber Music / Small Ensemble Performance. In 2016 he performed with Craig Taborn and Peter Evans as part of the Lincoln Center Mostly Mozart series. Smythe has recorded two excellent solo albums, Pluripotent (2011) and A U T O TROPHS (2017)—both on Not Art Records. Guitarist Daniel Lippel frequently performs in solo and chamber music settings and has been the resident guitarist for the International Contemporary Ensemble for twelve years. He has performed as a guest of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Either/Or Ensemble, New York City Opera, and many other groups. Lippel has worked with a number of prominent composers including John Zorn. Ethiopian born experimental singer and composer Sofia Jernberg is a Swedish resident with a similarly broad background. Jernberg is the co-leader of the chamber jazz group Paavo; the group received the "jazz group of the year" award from Swedish Radio. She has appeared on two recordings from the Mats Gustafsson led Fire! Orchestra and recently collaborated on a project that included Ken Vandermark.

"Susanna soil flutter" certainly aligns with Smythe's Lomax analogy but those interplanetary chirps reside in an overall setting that is dark and ominous. "Circulate to mole" centers on Jernberg's incredible vocal instrument, here a kind of staccato keening; on "Ladies load the telegraph," spoken word, and electronically altered on "Weave the ring" and the title track. Often the line is blurred between acoustic manipulation and stand-alone electronics as on "(Bullgine / lectric fluid magnified)" and "(Double star thru magnified)." Throughout the collection, Smythe's piano and Lippel's de-tuned guitar seem to reference every skill in their considerable repertoire, in particular, on "Ladies horserun" and "Reverse soil flutter," where the music descends into a ferocious maelstrom.

Circulate Susanna closes eerily and poignantly with "To gather the wind," a variation of "Strange Fruit." Alongside Jernberg's mesmerizing, unaltered vocal, Smythe has replaced sections of Abel Meeropol's troubling lyrics with improvisations rendered through a dense mix of piano reverberation, bowed guitar and whistles. Circulate Susanna is a theme as much as a title. "Oh! Susanna" like other folksy American classics of the mid-1800s such as "Camptown Races" and "My Old Kentucky Home" were widely popular (and are still sung by school children) but blatantly racist. It is an issue that Smythe tackles in a kaleidoscope of avant-garde influences, pointillist, and dense textures and controlled chaos. For those who crave intelligent experimenting, it is an album worth repeated listening.

Track Listing: Susanna soil flutter; Circulate to mole; Ladies load the telegraph; Weave the ring; Circulate Susanna; (Bullgine / lectric fluid magnified); Heads gather the stars; Ladies horserun; Twirl the bell, bullgine; Heads circulate to mole; (Double star thru magnified); Reverse soil flutter; To gather the wind.

Personnel: Sofia Jernberg: voice; Daniel Lippel: detuned acoustic guitar, electronics; Cory Smythe: piano, autoharp, electronics.

Title: Circulate Susanna | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Pyroclastic Records



comments powered by Disqus


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

Related Articles

Read Duologue Album Reviews
By Dan Bilawsky
January 17, 2019
Read Showing Up Album Reviews
Showing Up
By Nicholas F. Mondello
January 17, 2019
Read Chez Hélène Album Reviews
Chez Hélène
By Glenn Astarita
January 17, 2019
Read Original Demos Album Reviews
Original Demos
By Chris M. Slawecki
January 17, 2019
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