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Anna Webber: Shimmer Wince

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Anna Webber: Shimmer Wince
There is often an underlying rigor to the work of Canadian saxophonist and flautist Anna Webber, be that inspiration from the digital world on Binary (Skirl, 2016), her investigation of multiphonic intervals on Idiom (Pi, 2021) or contemporary classical percussion repertoire on Clockwise (Pi, 2020).

On Shimmer Wince, she derives her compositions from her study of Just Intonation, a system which many believe offers a more "pure" way of tuning and allows greater timbral and sonic possibilities than equal-temperament—the de facto form of intonation in Western music today. But regardless of the origin story, the end result is a stunning album jam packed with intricately plotted incident.

Joining her is an A-list cast of trumpeter Adam O'Farrill, a regular with guitarist Mary Halvorson and also a feature in the Webber Morris Big Band, cellist Mariel Roberts, (Nate Wooley, Jessica Pavone, Cory Smythe), the synthesizer of Elias Stemeseder (Jim Black, Christian Lillinger, Peter Evans) and drummer Lesley Mok, an increasingly visible talent with tenure in pianist Myra Melford's blue chip Fire And Water quintet, and her own acclaimed band The Living Collection (American Dreams, 2023).

With jazz fans' ears accustomed to blue notes, microtonality and improv fluidity, they will likely be reasonably inured to the slightly curdled intervals of Just Intonation. Consequently, there should be no impediment to appreciation of the seven pieces in this studio collection which are immediate and accessible, particularly as Webber has harnessed the infectious rhythmic thrust manifest by outfits such as her Simple Trio (with Matt Mitchell and John Hollenbeck).

By internalizing the unconventional harmonies, the band facilitates a natural breathing delivery of the multiplicity of melodies and rhythms Webber interlaces through each cut. A number like "Squirmy" exemplifies the weave: Webber juggles the jittery beat of the horns with spates of abrasive legato cello and a grounding synth drone in a tangle of theme and counter theme. The uneasy feel suggests the aural equivalent of overlapping bursts of Morse code: dots and dashes layered on top of each other, sometimes intersecting, but other times not creating a nagging tension.

That same track also illustrates another of the great pluses of this set, namely the accomplished solos which are integrated seamlessly into the web. In this case it is Webber's flute, bright and undulating, coiling back on itself in a slippery embrace. Elsewhere O'Farrill's expressive vocalized trumpet distinguishes "Fizz" along with Roberts' urgent sawing, while Mok tumbles around her kit in a measured eruption accompanied by a reiterated lilting melody on "Periodicity 2."

Webber achieves a sound bigger than might be expected from just five participants. Her arrangements are partly responsible, but so is her choice of instrumentation. Stemeseder's synth in particular thickens the ensembles, offering a wild card unpredictability with a range from glitchy circuitry to electric piano liquidity to indeterminate purr. Roberts too, by sticking mostly to bowing, deepens the countercurrents even as she eases imperceptibly in and out of the front line.

Both the introductory "Swell" and valedictory "Shimmer" drift and flow without grandstanding establishing early on, and affirming once more at the close, that this is primarily a group music. And what a group it is: corralled by absorbing charts yet rammed with unpredictable digressions.

Track Listing

Swell, Wince; Fizz; Periodicity 1; Squirm; Periodicity 2; Shimmer.

Personnel

Anna Webber
composer / conductor
Elias Stemeseder
synthesizer
Additional Instrumentation

Anna Webber: tenor sax, flute, bass flute.

Album information

Title: Shimmer Wince | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Intakt Records


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