JC Sanford's Triocracy: Pyramid Scheme

Mark Sullivan By

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Trombonist / composer JC Sanford leads an unconventional chamber trio with Andy Laster and Chris Bacas on saxophones and clarinets. As the group name implies, it is a remarkably flexible and democratic small ensemble. Sanford is the main composer, but there are also collective improvisations, guided improvisations, and a few surprising covers.

"Rip Tide" opens the set with a series of urgent, ripping passages, which also partake of the danger and aggressiveness of an actual rip tide. "Everything We've Always Wanted" is a deliberate attempt to write something bouncy, a waltz with a swing feel, with chord changes and a set form. The title tune employs a compositional technique called a pyramid, with all the players starting together, building a foundation for the actual melody. There is a lovely sense of motion as the parts alternately diverge and overlap.

On the directed improvisation end, "That's All There Is" is based on a simple melodic fragment presented in a few iterations, with space for rumination in between. "Time Parameters" got its name from the only instruction: improvise for about two minutes. It employs a bit of rhythmic key slapping.

"Quick Change" is a collective improvisation based on drastically changing what is being played, on cue (based on a John Zorn concept). In addition to the rapid shifts, it is also the shortest track, so it is quick in more ways than one. "Something Chordal" is exactly what the title sounds like. Its sound is worlds apart from the more frenetic improvisation in "Quick Change."

The covers include quite a range. The first is Billy Joel's "And So It Goes," which is a gentle ballad with an Americana flavor (as well as being a dramatic contrast with the preceding track). The chorale-like arrangement never strays from the character of the theme. "Sarabande" is the slow third movement from Handel's "Concerto For Oboe in G minor." An improvised chorus was added before Bacas' soprano saxophone in the oboe's role. Stevie Wonder's "You And I" concludes the covers, and the album as a whole, with another gentle ballad.

Track Listing

Rip Tide; And So It Goes; Pyramid Scheme; That's All There Is; Everything We've Always Wanted; Manic; "Quick Change" (Improvisation #5); Sarabande; Outlaster; "Something Chordal" (Improvisation #4); "Time Parameters" (Improvisation #3); Bagheera's Dance; You and I.


JC Sanford: trombone; Chris Bacas: tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet; Andy Laster: alto sax, baritone sax, clarinet.

Album information

Title: Pyramid Scheme | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Shifting Paradigm Records


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