It's interesting how modern jazz performers come to the music from very different circumstances than those of players of bygone eras. Instead of learning their craft in a bar or bagnio, they went to a conservatory to sharpen their chops. What they lack in perceived street-smarts (the outdated 1950s hipster delusion of jazzman as junkie), they make up for with a richness of talents and a knowledge of modern music. All this can be said of saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff
. He can compose music for contemporary classical chamber ensembles, play jazz with a small "j," or fire off improvisational jazz with upper case letters.
His Ethereal Trio genesis was a piece he composed for the Penderecki String Quartet and a saxophone trio, "Stars And Constellations: Scorpio." Performing separately from the strings, he found this working trio of bassist Mark Helias
and drummer Dan Weiss
allowed him to write intricate pieces that morphed into improvisational masterworks, as evidenced in the trio's debut recording.
Each player brings a wealth of knowledge and talent to this trio. Helias has performed with the likes of Anthony Braxton
, Abbey Lincoln
, Anthony Davis
, and Andrew Cyrille
, and those are just the greats that begin with the letter "A." Likewise, Dan Weiss is the go-to New York percussionist for Rudresh Mahanthappa and Matt Mitchell. Both have written music for large ensembles. The music here can best be described as impeccable, but not pristine, as in classical music. The three create a back-and-forth, much like the Harlem Globetrotters weave a basketball exhibition, making the unassailable, defenseless.
The disc opens with "Clairvoyant Jest," a slick-hip swing/pause/swing piece that chases effervescence as a theme. The music here is well crafted to allow for varying time changes (a specialty of Weiss and Helias) and it gives plenty of space for each musician to enunciate. Where we once expected soloing, here the players engage in something more conversational. The piece "Gravitas" sets up a stunning saxophone flight against bowed bass and Weiss' brush and cymbal explorations. Where a padrone- led recording might eschew equal time, Nachoff fosters it. Without the trio's name, it would be anyone's guess who's session this was. And more power to the saxophonist for his generosity. "Subliminal Circularity" is the recording's popular choice with Weiss working his kick drum like a funky marching band and Helias chasing, then being chased. Nachoff's saxophone playing is as thoroughly modern and unsoiled as say, Mark Turner
's, and we also hear flavors of Joe Lovano
in his playing. Highly recommended.
Clairvoyant Jest; Imagination Reconstruction; Gravitas; Subliminal Circularity;
Push-Pull Topology; Portrait in Sepia Tones.
Quinsin Nachoff: tenor saxophone; Mark Helias: double bass; Dan Weiss: drums.