Drummer and composer Chase Kuesel is based in Brooklyn, but his debut release as leader, Space Between
, arose from a year spent studying in Basel as part of a select group of young musicians funded through the Focusyear Artist Grant. It's an album that's notable for Kuesel's ambitious compositionsdrawing on influences including Olivier Messiaen, Norma Winstone
and Guillermo Klein, to whom Kuesel dedicates "Axis (For GK)"and for the stylish interpretations crafted by the drummer and his bandmates.
Four of the musicians come from the 2018/19 Focusyear ensembleKuesel, vocalist Song Yi Jeon
, tenor player Santi De La Rubia and guitarist Vinicius Gomes. As a whole, the ensemble is truly international, featuring performers from Europe, South America, the USA and South Korea. Kuesel chose the album's title in the winter of 2019, before the idea of space between became such a central feature in people's lives and made multi-national ensembles like this virtually impossible to get together in a single physical space.
Percussion dominates much of the sound, whether it's Kuesel's drums or glockenspiel, or Matt DiBiase's vibraphone or MalletKATor even Iannis Obiols's Fender Rhodes, whose bright and sparkling sound opens proceedings on the brief but lovely "Floating." However, the wide tonal variety brought by these instruments and the way in which Kuesel draws them together in his compositions ensure a constantly varying sound across the ten tracks.
"Circles"a song in two partsis an album highlight. Part one is an ethereal, spacious number, played and sung (by Song Yi) with great sensitivity. Part two shifts mood after a short wordless vocal, building around a sinuous bass/guitar/drum rhythm as De La Rubia's tenor gradually takes center-stage. Both of the vocalists share a similar impressive range and command of phrasing, but while Song Yi's voice has the greater clarity Francesca Gaza
's voice is somewhat softer, with a greater degree of tenderness. She's ideally suited to interpreting the lyrics to the reflective and gentle "Senescence," a song whose lyrics explore the changing relationship between a parent and their soon-to-leave-home child. Song Yi is better suited to the wordless, more urgent, vocal of the title track which ends in friendly, fast-paced competition between voice, tenor, vibes and guitar. "Saint B" follows, a unique example here of a composition that focuses on guitar and alto sax (played by Sam Barnett) as the lead instruments. Space Between
closes with "Passing Lights." It's a calm and relaxing duet between Gaza's wordless vocals and Obiols's restrained Rhodes, and the end of this enjoyable debut release, but hopefully just the beginning of things for Kuesel and his musical compatriots.
Floating; Falling; In Step; Circles (part 1); Circles (part 2); Axis (for GK); Senescence; Space Between; Saint B;