Intrepid trumpeter and composer Samantha Boshnack's Exploding Syndrome is one of those delightful, surprising discoveries that makes writing about jazz so rewarding. The explorative and intriguing record balances innovation with a strong melodic sense and the intimate ambience of the quintet with a definite dramatic flair.
The three part "Suite for Seattle's Royal Court," that forms the thematic focal point of the disc, exemplifies these contrasting yet complimentary trends well. The intense cinematic first movement opens with the rhythm section setting an expectant aura. Boshnack's stately trumpet blows over bassist Isaac Castillo's oud like strums before she takes off on an eastern flavored, intelligently constructed improvisation. Keyboardist Dawn Clement's haunting, vibrant sonic clusters are simultaneously mellifluous and electrifying.
The second is an undulating, mystical song that features Boshnack's long, languid notes gliding over bass clarinetist Beth Fleenor's thick, vibrato laced lines. Fleenor's brief but passionate solo floats out of the main melody with emotive elegance.
The third section is darker and more expansive with Clement's breathtakingly limber piano and Wurlitzer forming the core of the piece. As the band quiets down Fleenor's pastoral unaccompanied clarinet enters with reserved theatricality and flitters with agility as the quintet's vamps reecho in the background. Castillo's short but potently dissonant spontaneity thrills as it stands in contrast with the overall mood.
The rest of the album maintains the same stimulating creativity. There are no fillers here as each tune fits within the conceptual unity of the overall work. Drummer Max Wood's infectious rumbling beats open the multi-textured "Dormant." The intertwined and overlapping harmonic layers from the various instruments create a gripping and provocative atmosphere around Wood's pulsatile percussion. One that Clement's soulful keys memorably accent with delightfully atonal phrases.
Boshnak and her quintet are phenomenally innovative musicians with a unique signature sound that owes as much to their, on the spot, ingenuity as to Boshnak's original writing. Exploding Syndrome is a testament to their exceptional talents as individuals and, thanks to Boshnak's leadership, as a cohesive sympathetic group. It is also a portent of the brilliance that will hopefully continue to come from Samantha Boshnak's pen and horn.
Juba; Suite for Seattle's Royal Court Movement 1; Suite for Seattle's Royal Court Movement 2;
Suite for Seattle's Royal Court Movement 3; Xi; Dormant; Exploding Syndrome; Ashcloud.
Sam Boshnack: trumpet & compositions; Beth Fleenor: clarinets & voice; Dawn Clement: piano
& keyboards; Isaac Castillo: bass; Max Wood: drums.
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