Quinsin Nachoff is a saxophonist and composer who draws inspiration from the world around him. The 2017 solar eclipse, the 2016 American presidential election, Kenny Wheeler and John Cage all figured in the creation of the music on Path Of Totality, an ambitious program combining jazz, classical music and prog rock. It is performed by his group Flux, an impressive collection of forward-thinking musicians, Nachoff and David Binney on saxophone, Matt Mitchell on all manner of keyboards and both Kenny Wolleson and Nate Wood on drums, with guests added on several tracks.
"Path Of Totality" is a lurching, angular blast with the two saxophones warbling over harsh, off-center piano and crashing drums. "Bounce" is a piece in constant motion that goes through several sections. It begins with a bit of electronic gurgle then breaks into a racing alto and drum spot by Binney and Wood. This leads into a quieter section of long, lyrical tenor lines by Nachoff, decorated by dreamy electronic noise and tinkling piano. At the end, it all emerges into a unified roar of the two saxophones and organ. "Toy Piano Meditation" is inspired by Cage's "Suite For Toy Piano." It has Mitchell picking out crystalline Japanese melodic fragments over shimmering percussion until the saxophones come in. They take up the melody at an unhurried pace, mixing with droning synthesizer, marimba and vibraphone. All these elements slowly intermingle and constantly shift focus until the piece ends.
"March Macabre" sounds like something Frank Zappa might have written if he were around today to see our current political situation. The sound of marching feet serves as a relentless backdrop to the entire piece. First, ominous piano chords and menacing sax moans trudge into view. Then Binney and Nachoff spiral out of the heavy rhythmic throb with crisscrossing solo tangents, and Mitchell flies around on harmonium. After that, an augmented horn section twists through a crazily sinister melody, Nachoff cuts through the gloom on soprano, and the percussive tap-dancing of Orlando Hernandez flies lightly and freely to the end. On "Splatter," Mitchell's stumbling harpsichord line leads into a forest of percussive electronic noises that congeal into a clunky mechanical rhythm for the saxophones to bray and harmonize on. Nachoff then takes a soaring solo ride on tenor as Mitchell and Wood chop and hammer as synthesizers murmur in the background. "Orbital Resonances" brings the set to a close with a relatively short feast of bouncing horns, springy piano and splashing drums. Binney and Nachoff honk up and down together over the slick, interlocking drumming of both Wolleson and Wood while Mitchell bangs decorative chords in the middle.
This music is sprawling and complex but it has humor as well. A sense of fun infects even the heaviest passages, with Nachoff's experiments coming off deliberately quirky and over-the-top, and the musicians sounding like they enjoy these wild rides. Quinsin Nachoff has a very original compositional voice and has assembled an excellent band to bring his music to life.
Track Listing: CD 1:
Path of Totality; Bounce; Toy Piano Meditation.
March Macabre; Splatter; Orbital Resonances.
Personnel: David Binney: alto saxophone, C melody saxophone; Quinsin Nachoff: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Matt Mitchell: piano, Prophet 6, modular synthesizer, Novachord, harpsichord, Estey pump harmonium; Kenny Wollesen (1,3,4,6): drums, Wollesonic percussion; Nate Wood (1,2,5,6): drums; Jason Barnsley: 1924 Kimball Theatre Organ (2); Mark Duggan: marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, crotales, Tibetan singing bowls (3); Carl Maraghi: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet (4); Dan Urness, Matt Holman: trumpet (4); Ryan Keberle: trombone (4); Alan Ferber: trombone, bass trombone (4); Orlando Hernández: tap dance (4); David Travers-Smith: Buchla 200E analog modular system, EMS Synthi 100 analog/digital hybrid synthesizer, Arp Chroma (Rhodes) analog synthesizer, clavioline, Oberheim SEM, modular Moog (5).
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