Jacob Garchik: Clear Line

Dan Bilawsky By

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Jacob Garchik: Clear Line
As strange as it may sound, sometimes the best way to break free is to simply box yourself in. Limitations obviously cut off certain possibilities entirely, but they open the mind to so many others in the process. Composer (and trombonist) Jacob Garchik has long subscribed to that line of thinking and he takes it to bold heights on this, the most original, least derivative big band recording to arrive in ages.

Basically throwing out the rule book on the subject—avoiding standard forms and arranging techniques, even completely eliminating the use of a rhythm section, to striking effect—Garchik creates a music that's as far away from jazz norms as it is close to the art form's pioneering spirit. The ligne claire style of drawing associated with Belgian cartoonist Hergé, the work of architectural giant Paul Rudolph, a love for Mexican Banda music, an appreciation for the repetition of minimalism and the unorthodoxy of a maximilist's mindset, and a general desire to address clarity over customs takes this work in a unique direction. To say Garchik blazes his own trail here would be a gross understatement.

Opening on "Visualization of Interior Spaces," the ensemble offers more than two minutes of intense, cross-threaded, like-minded ascents that play motivic repetition against the concept of movement. Then he offers the illusion of serious change through fragmentation, rhythmic augmentation and clever sleight of hand, but the music remains fixed on its central design principle(s), in some way, shape or form, all the while. It's the kind of piece that draws serious thought and consideration to what questions and answers the score might hold. Then comes "Ligne Claire," assembling and dismantling a powerful yet jovial brassiness and reed run in a quirky counterpoint that's simply stunning; "Stacked Volumes," toying with space, weight, tension, sprinting arpeggiated chording, and the mass and strength of vertical constructs; and "Sixth," with its popping and darting horn integrations and brilliantly twined lines. Who needs a rhythm section when you have a band that fires like this?

The rest of the music herein could be considered both more of the same and nothing remotely similar to what precedes it. Garchik's fascination with the aforementioned topics continues to pop up and support the act(s) of creation, but they never really manifest the same way twice. "Hergé: Vision and Blindness," while tethered to specific sounds, speaks more to aura than any sort of linear aural fixation. "Moebius and Mucha" bounces along while tapping into the visual wonders in the bandes dessinée style of Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius) and the clear line offshoot(s) of Czech artist-illustrator Alphonse Mucha. "Line Drawings of Paul Rudolph" marries mystery and certainty in its framing. And the title track, offering a swing (of sorts) in its step, dealing in remarkably tight lines and articulations, and developing its actions to the fullest, closes out the show with solid intentions and plenty of surprise. Tapping into some of the music's great modernists—saxophonists Roman Filiu and Anna Webber, trumpeters Jonathan Finlayson and Adam O'Farrill, and trombonist Natalie Cressman, to name a few—and steering those talents in the right direction in his sui generis compositions, Garchik manages to create something that truly stands apart.

Track Listing

Visualization of Interior Spaces; Ligne Claire; Stacked Volumes; Sixth Intro; Sixth; Hergé: Vision and Blindness; Moebius and Mucha; Line Drawings of Paul Rudolph; Clear Line.


Jacob Garchik: trombone; Roman Filiu: saxophone, alto; Charlotte Greve: saxophone, alto; Anna Webber: saxophone, tenor; Kevin Sun: saxophone, tenor; Carl Maraghi: saxophone, baritone; Nathan Eklund: trumpet; Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Adam O'Farrill: trumpet; Davy Lazar: trumpet; Natalie Cressman: trombone; Kalia Vandever: trombone; Kalun Leung: trombone.

Additional Instrumentation

Jennifer Wharton: bass trombone.

Album information

Title: Clear Line | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Yestereve Records

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