Can music be both sprawling and focused in nature? The aptly-titled Forward In All Directions says it can, and it says so in convincing fashion.
Andy Milne, a distinguished M-Base alumnus who's worked with everybody from saxophonist Ravi Coltrane to harmonica heavy Gregoire Maret to singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, doesn't draw borders in his music, but there's no questioning the presence of structure in his work. He's a shrewd sound painter who produces astounding patchwork canvases that speak to dualities in sound, style, text, and subtext. In Milne's world, a dark cloud can hover over a buoyant dance ("The Trust"); intensity and reflection can coexist and thrive together in a single space ("In The Mirror, Darkly"); the juxtaposition of weight and weightlessness can serve as an important artistic tool ("Katharsis"); sinuous saxophone and sinister machinations coexist and serve as needed contrast ("Hopscotch"); and everything from clarinet to synthesizer to beat poetry can serve as an instrument of power, passion, and precision.
Milne possesses an extensive musical vocabulary and projects an open-to-anything-attitude in his work. His music can start in one place and end somewhere completely different (i.e. "How And When Versus What"), but that's not a given. In fact, nothing is a given here. Intoxicating surroundings can turn hostile in heartbeat, a gentle stroll can gain momentum at a moment's notice, and serenity can give way to forcefulness.
The emotional sea changes in this music are often directed by Milne, but much of the credit should obviously go to the men and women he's directing. Aaron Kruziki plays multiple roles, covering everything from bass clarinet to soprano saxophone to duduk, a double-reed instrument of Armenian origins; guitarist Ben Monder, appearing on several tracks, refracts light, harnesses darkness, and shreds with a sense of controlled abandon; a threesome of guest vocalistsvocal poet John Mooney and sirens Gretchen Parlato and Jean Baylorhelp Milne to take his music in different directions; and bassist Chris Tordini and drummer Kenny Grohowski cover the whole friendly-to-frenzied and quiet-to-combative spectrum in their work. Those who like their jazz albums to be clean, uni-directional rides probably won't be up for this trip, but that's their loss. While traveling here, there, and everywhere, Andy Milne has found a way to bottle and package musical lightning.
Hopscotch; Photographs; In the Mirror, Darkly; Search Party; Katharsis; Nice to Meet
You; The Trust; How and When Versus What; Fourteen Fingers; Headache in
Andy Milne: piano, prepared piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizers; Aaron Kruziki:
soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, duduk, alto saxophone, keyboard
programming; John Moon: vocal poetics (2, 4, 5); Christopher Tordini: acoustic bass,
electric bass; Kenny Grohowski: drums, percussion; Ben Monder: guitar (4, 8, 10); Jean
(5); Gretchen Parlato: vocals (5)
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