Ian Carey Quintet + 1: Fire in My Head: The Anxiety Suite

Dan McClenaghan By

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Ian Carey Quintet + 1: Fire in My Head: The Anxiety Suite
Trumpeter Ian Carey's Fire In My Head: The Anxiety Suite opens on a somber note, not with the sense of agitation that the album title suggests. The initial moments of the tune, "Signs And Symptoms," Part 1 of the suite, may initially be addressing the fatigue common to the malady, before his Carey's Quintet + 1 gradually turns up of the momentum in the direction of that anxiety, in manifestations from the leader's horn, followed by an on-edge turn by alto saxophonist Kasey Knudsen, and on into the scrambled beauty of pianist Adam Shulman, as drummer Jon Arkin's military beat and bass clarinetist Sheldon Brown's seemingly soothing undertones try to pull back the gathering dread, to maintain a mental equilibrium, before a brief, squalling hell breaks loose.

Taking inspiration from the political climate after the 2016 election, Carey crafts a five part piece mixing chamber jazz and straight ahead bebop with, at times, avant-garde leanings, in an exploration of stressed mental processes via instrumental dialogues inside the compositional foundation. "Thought Spirals" suggests competing metal monologues, horns—at once but not always in unison—voicing their individualistic and perhaps competing opinions.

"Internal Exile" leans more in the direction of chamber jazz, refined and smooth-flowing, with a strikingly beautiful trumpet solo from Carey, and "This Is Fine" explores trumpeter Lee Morgan's Blue Note records sound, while ""Thought Spirals" sounds like the random thoughts swept up in a mental vortex.

The music is artfully arranged. The unusual addition of bass clarinet to the front line, conversing with the trumpet and saxophone, proves a real plus, creating a distinctive group dynamic. The possibility of this sound transferred to a larger ensemble comes to mind.

The closer, "Resistance," has a resolute vibe, a stiff-spined acceptance of elections gone terribly wrong, perhaps, featuring terrific solo statements all around—especially the alto sax finale from Knudsen—to wrap things up on a positive note.

Track Listing

I. Signs & Symptoms; II. This Is Fine; III. Thought Spirals; IV. Internal Exile; V. Resistance.


Ian Carey: trumpet; Sheldon Brown: clarinet, bass; Kasey Knudsen: saxophone, alto; Adam Shulman: piano; Fred Randolph: bass; Jon Arkin: drums.

Album information

Title: Fire in My Head: The Anxiety Suite | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Slow & Steady

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