The collective, Alchemy Sound Project, is a core quintet of composers and musicians whose compositions, on their debut album, Further Explorations cross over a foundation of chamber music with traditional jazz. The central players had united under the banner of the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute prior to this project. With diverse interests in global influences as well as backgrounds in a multitude of musical mediums, their challenge was to create jazz influenced by classical principles, a bit of a reverse process from the conventional approach.
Saxophonist Erica Lindsay, who performs with the Oliver Lake Big Band, also co-leads a quartet with Alchemy Sound Project pianist Sumi Tonooka, a group that includes bassist Rufus Reid. Tonooka, whose accomplishments include a residency with The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, drew considerable attention for her solo release Now (Artists Recording Collective, 2012). Multi-reed player Salim Washington was a member of Fred Ho's Afro-Asian Music Ensemble and a founding member of the activist group, The Eco-Music Big Band. Bassist David Arend works across multiple genres and has performed with artists that run the gamut from the San Francisco Symphony to Carlos Santana. Trumpeter Samantha Boshnack leads multiple groups and has played with Wayne Horvitz in the Washington Composers Orchestra. Not regular members of Alchemy Sound Project, trombonist Willem de Koch and drummer Max Wood join in on Further Explorations.
"Charcoal, Clear, Beautiful All Over" opens a ten piece collection prevalent with opulent yet understated expressions. The title track takes a more avant-garde approach but no less rich in atmosphere. Tonooka, Lindsay and Washington, in particular, build on the traditional lexicons of their respective instruments to keep the music from settling too long in one place. Following its stately opening, "Alchemical" provides a launch pad for some adventurous improvising from Tonooka and Lindsay before returning to a variation on the opening theme. More overtly jazz-oriented, "Waiting" and "Beta" have moments of wilder abandon while "Archetype" builds to boil and "Joie De Vivre" is as exuberant as its name implies.
Further Explorations is an excellent debut from a talented group of composers and players. The goal of jazz/chamber integration is well balanced, primarily because this group has evident passion for rendering their individual and collective contributions to that organic end point. The invention, tonal shading and occasional raucousness on this album give it a warm glow and a sense of fun.
Charcoal, Clear, Beautiful All Over; Further Explorations; Alchemical; Waiting; Beta; Her Name Is Love; Archetype; Divergency; Joie De Vivre; The Call.
Erica Lindsay: saxophone; Sumi Tonooka: piano; Salim Washington: saxophone, oboe, flute, bass clarinet; David Arend: bass; Samantha Boshnack: trumpet; Willem de Koch: trombone; Max Wood: drums.