Johannes Wallmann’s fourth album as a leader features his NYC-based Brasstet, an innovative ensemble comprised of three brass (Ralph Alessi, trumpet; Josh Roseman, trombone; and Marcus Rojas, tuba) together with a rhythm section of bassist Sean Conly, drummer Fred Kennedy, and Wallmann on piano (Wallmann’s working piano trio for much of the past decade). The group’s instrumentation is nimble enough to allow for highly interactive ensemble play (such as the New Orleans-inspired collective improvisation of “The Sweet Minute”), yet rich enough in timbre to suggest a much larger brass choir (“Looms in the Mist”).
Following two prior suites composed for the Brasstet, the “America Suite” (2001), which explored the tradition of American Spirituals, and the “Imperial Suite” (2003), a more aggressively avant-garde anti-war statement (both of which were commissioned by the North River Music, a series of new music presented at Renee Weiler Recital Hall in NYC), Wallmann’s third suite for the Brasstet was inspired by his impressions of coastal communities. “The Coasts” was composed shortly after Wallmann, who grew up on Canada’s Vancouver Island moved back to the West Coast (San Francisco Bay Area) after 15 years on the East Coast (Boston and New York).
Coastal life, both rural and urban, is shaped by rhythms imposed by the ebb and flow of the oceans and by the human connection to the oceans as a source of food, transportation, employment, adventure, and identity. In a world of rising oceans and drying land, Wallmann’s music finds inspiration in elements both timeless and current. While the personnel of the Brasstet has changed over the years, the group has always featured some of the finest creative improvisers in New York. The current edition draws heavily on some of the downtown jazz scene’s most accomplished performers, who navigate even the more complex odd-meter compositions of “The Coasts” with ease and playfulness.