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The textures on Starfish have a tight weave, threads tinctured with the darker hues. And though the weave is a close one, the overall fabric has an elastic quality, allowing for the stretch of improvisation and a four way convergence of ideas.
If they gave a Grammy for music that demands and rewards the listener's attention, Starfish would be a sure nominee.
Andy McWain's piano work can be delicate and feather light, then seismically percussive, sometimes in the same song; and reedman Assif Tsahar (bass clarinet, tenor sax) sizzles then broods, propels while fresh ideas stab in from the other three corners. The impression that won't let go after multiple listenings is Classical music, modern mode; chamber sounds, with jazz teeth. No instrument dominates the mix; the ensemble is the instrument. The recent music of Vijay Iyer ( Panoptic Modes ) or The Maneri Ensemble ( Going to Church ) are probably the closest comparisons, but Starfish is denser, leaning more heavily on the melodic component, possessed of a strikingly intricate noir-ish beauty.
Dynamic sounds. Two cuts"Thorn Tea Jar" and "Pure Iris Chord"appear in two parts, separated on the CD. These cycles represent a revisitation of themes that may evolve in the direction of jazz suites.
McWain and crew are a phenomenon, a very exciting discovery.
Track Listing: Periodic Stasis Amid Torrent, Duo Interlude, Thorn Tea Jar (I), As a Starfish, Pure
Iris Chord (I), Wind Can May, Toxins (Parts I-III), Thorn Tea Jar (II), Pure Iris Chord
(II), Another Dynamic Starfish Precursor
Personnel: Andy McWain, piano; AssifTsahar, tenor sax and bass clarinet; Noah Jarrett, bass;
Chris Poudrier, drums
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.