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9 Horses Trio Releases String-centric 'Strum' Featuring Sara Caswell, Joe Brent, Andrew Ryan And More

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9 Horses moves like a meticulously crafted Mahavishnu Orchestra, yet made for this century. …The group quickly pivots from one sonic realm to another, dancing between electric to chamber ideas with breeze and beauty.
—WBGO Radio
9 Horses
One of the most influential and admired ensembles in progressive jazz and improvised music, the primarily plucked and bowed string instruments of 9 Horses returns with Strum, its most extraordinary collection yet. Bursting at the seams with creativity and virtuosity, this 67-minute instrumental epic serves as the antithesis to today’s augmentation of A.I.-generated music. Alongside the string trio as the ensemble’s core, STRUM also features 25 of the world’s leading instrumentalists performing eight tunes prominently showcasing acoustic, organic human-made sounds.

“The record is called Strum because every tune prominently features the sound of a plucked or strummed instrument: mandolins, guitars, basses, banjos, pianos, and including instruments that usually aren’t thought of that way like violins, drums, even people. During the recording process I found myself progressively replacing synth textures, with acoustic, organic sounds. There’s lots of sounds in here that are identifiably human-made: creaky gears, ambient room noise, breathing, chair squeaking, and lots of calloused fingers on strings and frets. Sounds like that make me feel like I’m in the room with the humans making the music, and remind me it’s humans making it.”—-Joe Brent

The album features guest contributions from today’s top musicians across a spectrum of genres: Sam Sadigursky (Philip Glass Ensemble), Kaoru Watanabe (Silkroad Ensemble), Brandon Ridenour (Canadian Brass), Jason Treuting (Sō Percussion), Mike Robinson (Railroad Earth), Jhair Sala (Pedrito Martinez), Victor Otoniel Vargas (Prince Royce), Samuel Torres (Shakira), Glenn Zaleski (Cécile McLorin Salvant), Blair McMillan (piano faculty at Juilliard, Bard, and Mannes), Emily Hope Price (Kishi Bashi), Anna Urrey (Ólafur Arnalds), Ben Russell (Arcade Fire) and Michael Bellar (John Scofield), among others, all of whom have collaborated with the members of 9 Horses previously. “Surround yourself with smart people and then everyone will think you’re smart too,” Brent quips, adding, “I’m hard-pressed to think of another album that features contributions from members of The Philip Glass Ensemble, Railroad Earth, and Shakira’s band.”

Once again 9 Horses delivers a recording massive in scale and ambition while sacrificing none of the hyper-meticulous care and construction they have become known for. As on 9 Horses’s previous albums, nothing really prepares the listener for a Sara Caswell solo at full steam. Her solo on ‘Americannia’ is a two-and-a-half-minute masterpiece of soulful tone and phrasing, restrained at first but steadily building in momentum and density until it crashes through any previous notion of what an improvising violin is capable of. Likewise, her gorgeous melodic improvisation on ‘Jenny-Pop Nettle Eater’, accompanied by strings and a choir (arranged and layered voice-by-voice by Sleigh Bells’ Kate Steinberg), demonstrates her peerless tone and inventiveness while exploring the entire range of her instrument; never showy or overplayed, always speaking with her unique voice whether on violin or her folk-inflected hardanger fiddle.

Joe Brent’s lickety-split solo on ‘The House That Ate Myself’ that closes the album as well as his fiery duo improvisation with drumming ace John Hadfield on ‘Jenny-Pop Nettle Eater’ prove a deft counterbalance to Sara’s magisterial lyricism. Jhair Sala and Samuel Torres’ percussion battle in ‘Gasparilla’ is an early album standout. And the pointillistic album centerpiece ‘Long Time Away’ features kinetic, ultra-precise hocketing between Brent, Caswell, Ryan, pianist Blair McMillan, and Sō Percussion’s Jason Treuting. But it’s the core trio, with Caswell as the lead voice, that lingers in the memory at the album’s close. With primarily plucked and bowed stringed instruments, 9 Horses has once again created something truly magical and monumental.

About 9 Horses

The 9 Horses trio comprises multi-instrumentalist and composer Joe Brent, jazz titan and Grammy nominee Sara Caswell, and acoustic music’s foremost bassist Andrew Ryan. Originally formed in 2012 as a duo between Brent and Caswell, 9 Horses expanded to a trio the following year and in 2015 released its debut album Perfectest Herald (Sunnyside Records). The centerpiece of the album is a 4-movement suite for the acoustic trio alone which takes the listener on a searing journey through tragedy, triumph, and renewal. Budd Kopman wrote in All About Jazz: “Brent's music is just bursting with emotion and its immediacy is partly what makes it so attractive and inviting. This highly emotive music touches and communicates the essence of what it means to be an alive, feeling human being."

In 2019, they released a 4-song EP called Blood From A Stone, showcasing their development as an ensemble. Featuring their experiments with electronic music, collective improvisation, and influences from rock, jazz, and hip-hop, Blood From A Stone was called, “extraordinary,” and, “a sound world that crashes together acoustic and electric textures with composed and improvised performances.”

Omegah (2021) was named one of the Best Recordings of the Year by numerous publications. Strings Magazine called it, “A restless shapeshifting amalgam of jazz, rock, pop, improvisation, melody, and variegated acoustic and electronic textures…Only 9 Horses can make such a complex and experimental mix of timbres, colors, and themes sound so effortless and free.”

Strum Album Release Concert featuring 9 Horses trio performance

Saturday, June 22, 2024, at 8:00 p.m.
Williamsburg Music Center, 367 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, New York Tix + Info: EventBrite.com.

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Track Listing

Strum; Americannia; Gasparilla; Rohri; Long Time Away; Jenny-Pop Nettle Eater; Just Don't Call It That; The House That Ate Myself.

Personnel

9 Horses
band / ensemble / orchestra
Joe Brent
mandolin
Andrew Ryan
bass, acoustic
Sam Sadigursky
saxophone, alto
Michael Bellar
keyboards
Mike List
percussion
Kevin Garcia
percussion
Ben Russell
violin
Justin Goldner
bass, electric
Additional Instrumentation

John Hadfield: drums (1,2,4,6-8); Michael Bellar: keyboards (1-4,6,8); Glenn Zaleski: piano (1-3,7); Blair McMillan: piano (1,2,5-8); Sam Sadigursky: alto saxophone (1), soprano sax (8); Anna Urrey: flute (1,7), piccolo (7); Hsuan-Fong Chen: oboe (1); Kaoru Watanabe: shinobue (1), koto (1), taiko (1); Otoniel Victor Vargas: drums (3); Jhair Sala: timbales (3); Samuel Torres: congas (3); Kevin Garcia: percussion (1); Justin Goldner: electric bass (6), cümbüş (6); Ben Russell: violin (1,4,8); Beth Meyers: viola (1); Claudia Chopek: violin (1); Emily Hope Price: cello (1); Lola Brullman: vocals (1); Kate Steinberg: vocals (6); Brandon Ridenour: trumpet and piccolo trumpet (3); Mike Robinson: pedal steel (2), Jason Treuting: drums (5).

Album information

Title: Strum | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Adhyâropa Records


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