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Songlines: An Independent Voice for New Music

Mark Werlin By

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Transferring an original analogue recording directly (and conscientiously) to hi-res digital preserves the analogue character of the sound. While many original digital recordings from the late 1980s and early 90s sound artificial, hard and flat, the 24/192 transfer of the Quartet 1991 multitrack studio tapes, and the careful efforts to mix, edit and master them, yields a warm sonic playback experience, more like a good late-era LP than an antiseptic early CD.

In the 25 years since he recorded Quartet 1991 Brad Shepik has continued to grow and develop as a player and composer. This early example of his composing was well worth preserving and distributing. Songlines' successful history with Shepik attests to the confidence Tony Reif expressed in 1991when he financed the sessions. Shepik's ambitious Human Activity Suite, originally released by Songlines on SACD in 2009 and currently available on CD and hi-res download, won high praise from jazz critics.

Track Listing: Confluenza; Terrestrials; Bent House; Circa; Nightbirds; PLAW; Ramblin'; Way In; Song of Then

Personnel: Brad Shepik, electric guitar (left channel); Ron Samworth, electric guitar (right channel); Phil Sparks, bass; Michael Sarin, drums

Format: Recorded in multi-track analogue, mixed and mastered 24/192 digital

Harris Eisenstadt: Canada Day IV

Enter the album name hereComposing new music for players who live in different parts of the world places unique demands and constraints on the composer, and on the record label. In the liner notes to Canada Day IV, Harris Eisenstadt addresses the circumstances that delayed the recording:

"I brought the pieces into rehearsals, then we played a series of concerts over the course of a year. We started with a four-night run in May 2014 at Douglass Street Music. I was tempted to record after that first run, but decided instead to let the material gestate. Due to scheduling challenges (everyone in the band is, predictably, super-busy), we did not re-convene until our European tour in November 2014... and we returned ready to record, but I had booked some New York concerts long in advance and decided to keep them, to let the material percolate further. Finally, in January 2015, we... made the record in a seamless day-long session."

The passage of so much time from composition to recording, during which Eisenstadt and his colleagues were only able to convene for a short tour and a brief residency, raises concerns about the forces adversely impacting the development of jazz. The scheduling demands on working musicians, the high costs of touring and low compensation for performing, and the geographic distance that separates players are factors in slowing the rate of development of new music, and especially, the speed with which audiences are apprised of those developments.

In this instance, the payoff for the project's long gestation is a fully realized album distinguished by consistently excellent writing and performances. The set is marked by Eisenstadt's interest in the 1970s AACM and mid-1960s post-bop streams of American jazz. "After Several Snowstorms" opens the album in media res with a bass and vibes interlude, then progresses, in a kind of inverse to conventional form, to a tenor sax solo, and then to a statement of the head by the full ensemble. A solo by the gifted and adventurous trumpeter Nate Wooley evokes a roomful of antecedents, from Miles Davis circa Filles de Kilimanjaro to Don Cherry, to Bill Dixon. A second statement by the ensemble fades into a bass and vibes interlude, a conclusory ensemble passage, and a dissonant accented phrase from the two horns. It's a low-key opening that calls the listener, in parallel to the music, to slow down, take a breath and focus on the complex and intriguing work that follows.

"Sometimes It's Hard to Get Dressed in the Morning" continues in the vein established in the opening track: a sequence of short passages in shifting time signatures. Call-and-response horn soloing over hypnotic rhythms from the vibes and drums (Eisenstadt studied with Gambian musicians) leads into a trumpet solo. Wooley runs through permutations on short melodic "cells," graduates to longer phrases reminiscent of Miles' late acoustic period, and finally bursts out into free jazz idiom. Tenor saxophonist Matt Bauder, picking up on Wooley's cue, begins his solo with extended technique overtone blowing, gradually shifts into a line of melodic phrases, then returns to overtones—all with reserve and economy.

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Quartet 1991

Quartet 1991

Songlines Recordings
2016

buy
Top Down

Top Down

Self Produced
2016

buy
Across The Way

Across The Way

Songlines Recordings
2011

buy
Human Activity Suite

Human Activity Suite

Songlines Recordings
2009

buy
Places You Go

Places You Go

Songlines Recordings
2007

buy
The Well

The Well

Songlines Recordings
2003

buy

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