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Robert Sabin: Humanity Part II

Troy Collins By

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Robert Sabin has a dark side. Although the New York-based bassist regularly serves as a sideman to such luminaries as Oliver Lake and Luis Bonilla, Sabin has revealed an abiding fascination with horror throughout his career, as documented on his 2005 Ranula Music debut Killdozer, based on Marvin Heemeyer's infamous armored bulldozer rampage in Colorado the previous year, and his 2007 sophomore follow-up Romero, an ode to George Romero's apocalyptic zombie films.

Humanity Part II continues Sabin's investigation into the underbelly of human existence. Instead of his usual small combo, Sabin enlists a brass-heavy ten piece ensemble to convey his cinematic extemporizations, whose lush voicings lend the proceedings a neoclassical air, similar to the post-war Third Stream experiments of Gil Evans and Gunther Schuller. Emulating concerto form, he employs protean tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby as primary soloist throughout the date, with guitarist Jesse Lewis receiving ample time in the spotlight as well.

The album is named after part of Ennio Morricone's score for John Carpenter's 1982 cult classic The Thing, though the opening title track is actually a composite of the soundtrack's two main themes. Originally performed on vintage synthesizers, the haunting motifs are gracefully reinterpreted by the horn section with a lilting swing feel, accentuated by Rigby's foreboding tenor ruminations and Lewis' scorching fretwork.

Drawing inspiration from another cinema icon, the episodic "Through A Glass Darkly" reflects the existentialism of Ingmar Bergman's film trilogy through a heady mélange of polyphonic choruses and canonical melodies, with tuba player Ben Stapp and drummer Jeremy Noller making notable appearances alongside Rigby. Similarly, "Tenebre" pays homage to the garish giallo style proffered by Dario Argento's movie of the same name, underscored by Matt Holman's prismatic trumpet cadences.

Drawing from sources beyond film, the dreamlike counterpoint of "Scarecrow" references Maurice Ravel's phantasmagoric solo piano suite Gaspard de la nuit, while the introspective "Ghost" conveys loss. The monolithic "Leviathan" concludes the program in suitably dramatic fashion, rising from the subterranean depths of Sabin's stalwart bass solo to the searing heights of Lewis' progressively frenzied outro.

Despite the dark subject matter, Sabin's arrangements on Humanity Part II are surprisingly accessible—beautiful even. Though somewhat rarefied in jazz and improvised music, Sabin's musical adaptations of unsettling imagery resound with a primal appeal, drawing aesthetic parallels to such timeless traditions as Dia de Muertos and the Grand Guignol.

Track Listing: Humanity (Part II); Through a Glass Darkly; Scarecrow; Ghost; Tenebre; Leviathan.

Personnel: Robert Sabin: bass; Jesse Lewis: guitar; Jeremy Noller: drums; Aaron Irwin: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute; Jason Rigby: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Dan Urness: trumpet; Matt Holman: trumpet; Chris Komer: horn; John Yao: trombone; Ben Stapp: tuba.

Title: Humanity Part II | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Ranula Music


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