When West Coast-based trombonist Scot Ray isn’t performing with rock/swing guitarist Brian Setzer, (Brian Setzer Orchestra), you might find him shedding with well-known modern jazz artists such as multi-reedman Vinny Golia, french hornist Tom Varner, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and many others of note. And on this self-produced effort titled Small Architecture, Ray utilizes his various trombones and electronic devices along with guitarist Andrew Barbera and drummer/percussionist David Shaffer for a series of sound designs that do indeed parallel the title of this most interesting project.
A mighty little band indeed, as the musicians whirl through recurring themes that take on chameleon like qualities as the hue and tonalities transgress through various progressions and motifs. On the composition “Architecture I”, Barbera employs some electrified fuzz-toned guitar lines atop solid backbeats and airy unison runs between Ray and Shaffer, as Ray also works the bottom end with his trombone; whereas, the multitasking efforts reap huge dividends throughout.
The musicians artfully meld hard-core rock beats and complex time signatures with sonorous passages and brazen soloing yet through it all, the band regenerates a previously established theme into bright choruses, capricious escapades and ethereal dreamscapes. Andrew Barbera’s bluesy electric slide guitar work on “Plates” offers yet another abstract perspective to the proceedings as he insinuates the melody amid Ray’s fervent harmonies and cunning execution of counterpoint. However, the musicians eventually switch gears as they inject some lightning fast Balkan motifs into the mix. Simply stated, Small Architecture is a splendid surprise and a thoroughly entertaining one at that! Highly recommended!
* * * * ½ (out of * * * * *)
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Track Listing: 1) Gut 2) Architecture I 3) Gravel 4) Schematic 5) Plates 6) Nebo 7) Opaque 8) Architecture II 9) Tumbleweed
Personnel: Scot Ray; trombone, reed-driven trombone, electronics: Andrew Barbera; electric guitar: David Shaffer; drums and percussion