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Brooklyn continues to build on its reputation as a breeding ground for some of the finest modern jazz in the Northeast. Bassist Peter Kerlin adds to that distinction with Salamander, an octet powered collection with a very unique structure that includes three basses, double vibraphones and a string trio. Kerlin is no stranger to the unusual having played with the genre defying group Source of Yellow and cutting edge trumpeter Nate Wooley. In contrast to those outings as a side man, the music on Salamander transports the ensemble back and forth from structured chamber-style compositions to free improvisation.
The bass has substantial impact on the ensemble's direction as Kerlin's compositions and arraignments frequently kick off with a driving line serving as a foundation for most of the pieces in the collection. What transpires is a varied palette of cavernous, acoustic-based resonance and light airy strings. There's a lot of interesting interplay between the instrument families and the counter-play and resulting textures are used to an interesting effect. Even amongst the more orchestrated passages Kerlin infuses layers of propulsive rhythm, strings and bass in loosely constructed improvisations.
The opener, "Bulbs" and its follow-up"Snake Eats Electric Blanket"typify the bass-driven pace that initiates a number of these performances. On the latter piece a repetitive single note becomes the jumping off point for the melodic swirl of strings. "Cenozoan Warp" features some stand out drumming though given the duplication of many of the instruments (including percussion), it's never apparent which of the instrumentalists is soloing. The relatively short "Wanna Let the Bell-Tower Ring" is the most overtly abstract piece in the collection with a warped effect as the notes seem to bend around the thread of a organization. It's also a piece where the vibes have their chance to be out in front. The closing piece, "Ballad of the Bewildered Herd," opens with a wash of cymbals bleeding into the deep, woody bass. The strings and vibes enter, building to a well-orchestrated ballad.
There's a trance-like quality to many of these pieces though they are far more complex than the drone quality sometimes associated with dark jazz. Quiet ballad sections fall into clusters of notes and strings that alternate between a feeling of disorientation and refinement. Pieces morph and shift all the while retaining hypnotic core elements. Salamander is a non-conventional and intriguing album with captivating qualities.
Track Listing: Bulbs; Snake Eats Electric Blanket; Cenozoan Warp; Wanna Let The Bell-
Tower Ring; Ballad Of The Bewildered Herd.
Personnel: Peter Kerlin: bass; Taylor Bergren-Chrisman: bass; Brent Cordero: bass:
Sam Sowyrda: vibraphone; Cesare Papetti: vibraphone; Amy Cimini: viola;
Jessica Pavone: viola; Karen Waltuch: viola; Emily Manzo: organ,
Wurlitzer; Mike Pride: drums, percussion; Charles Burst: drums,
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.