RelativE ResonancE: RelativE ResonancE

Budd Kopman By

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RelativE ResonancE: RelativE ResonancE
With RelativE ResonancE, composer and drummer Devin Gray has staked out new, exciting and different territory than that explored in his highly acclaimed previous album, Dirigo Rataplan.

Whereas the earlier band (saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, trumpeter Dave Ballou and bassist Michael Formanek) emphasized improvisation within group and compositional boundaries, the music for the new group (Chris Speed, saxophone and clarinet, pianist Kris Davis and bassist Chris Tordini) is both a natural reflection of Gray and could be said to be written specifically for the members of the group.

Now, this desire in itself is not original to Gray, but he has extended it to his compositional technique. Of the album's eight tracks, three are what Gray calls "traditional" (in the sense of a line/motive being presented and explored; the lines are traditional to the downtown scene), while the other five used the experimental technique of each player being given an independent part, which, through repeatedly being played by the entire group, becomes a group piece that reflects both the player's personalities and the resultant group cohesion.

The result is extremely engrossing, intense and many times mesmerizing music that can be listened to many times over. The difference between the "trad" tracks ("City Nothing City," "In The Cut" and "Relative Resonance (for Tad Dameron)") and the "experimental" ones is quite distinct, although the group's personality remains identifiable in each.

There is no musical leader and each player, most naturally Speed and Davis, but also Tordini, gets (or takes) time to shine or bend the music in their direction. Gray himself is a very sharp, precise drummer, full of energy, and he manages to push the music continuously without falling for very long into a groove. Tordini is an exceptional partner to Gray and as the bottom of the music plays the multiple roles of harmonic and rhythmic support simultaneously while also adding his own lines to the mix. Speed's sound and articulation, on both saxophone and clarinet are perfect for this music, while Davis, in the middle of everything that is going on, superbly ties it all together with her angular lines and sharp attack. Her sound, note choices and penchant for circularly repeating motives meld the band's sound together.

Each tune, of whichever type, has its musical and emotional space which it sets and explores. RelativE ResonancE is a very rich smorgasbord which can be savored by the heart, mind and body. Outstanding!

Track Listing

City Nothing City; In The Cut; Notester; Jungle Design (for Hannah Shaw); Transatlantic Transitions; Undo The Redo; Relative Resonance (for Tad Dameron); Search It Up.


Devin Gray: drums; Chris Speed: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Kris Davis: piano; Chris Tordini: double-bass.

Album information

Title: RelativE ResonancE | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Skirl Records

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