The secret behind Life & Umbrella is that Chicago-based, Mexican-born pianist/composer Javier Red is a studied composer who puts a great deal of thought into the music he presents, both to his peers and to the world. But that music never feels calculated like an equation with an obvious answer. Just the exact opposite. So it is with wiry, creative glee that Red and his Imagery Converterdrummer Gustavo Cortiñas, bassist Ben Dillinger and saxophonist Jake Warkdouble down on their bold debut, pronouncement, Ephemeral Certainties (Delmark Records, 2019) with this acrobatic twelve song set.
With each of the twelve titles meant to encompass the many traits associated with his son's autism, Red and company fracture and disrupt the pianist's potent compositions with a wry confidence bordering on the wanton urge to bust things up just for the hell of it, then swear by the outcome. Tossing the very concept of time and its dominion over to the wind, key moments along the spectrum such as the decisively elusive "Imaginary Friend," the metric elasticity of "Brain Checking," the reflective cognition of "Resilience Cycle," turn all this disjointedness and dissonance into an actual, fully functional whole. In other words,
As the quartet has its way with theme and content, each player has standout moments throughout Life & Umbrella. Wark especially parlays his tone and blue-collar dynamism into "Circles," where his initial breathiness stimulates the conversation. Ray rolls in with a particularly acute and agile solo which Wark then reclaims with a deeper, more resonant intonation. Cortiñas' crisp sense of deconstruction is palpable on each track, especially the opening "Thought Unable to Be Contained" and the above-mentioned "Brain Checking." Bassist Dillinger's fluidity with the angular constructs and demands of "Different Tempos" and the softer, more fluctuating lines of "Interior Worlds" prove him a player able to keep things balanced within the ever-moving crux.
Even with the pianist's stated mission that the music be a bridge of understanding between neurotypicals and the autistic, Life & Umbrella is a collaborative work as epitomized in the closing epic, "Future, Umbrella, Life," where Ray, Cortiñas, Wark, and Dillinger daringly rile and rumble then come to a collective understanding that we all stand taller when we stand alongside each other.
Thoughts Unable To Be Contained; The Happiness Of Hope; Imaginary Friend; Brain Check;
Umbrella; Resilience Cycle; This Is What They Found; Life; Interior World; Different Tempos;
Choices; Future, Umbrella, And Life.
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