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Collin Sherman: String Planes


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Collin Sherman: String Planes
Collin Sherman takes the 'A' train to his day job in Manhattan. Billy Strayhorn, the writer of the tune "Take the 'A' Train" that was made famous by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, must be smiling. Do the seeds of Sherman's compositions germinate during these forty-five-minute rides? Possibly, though his music has no resemblance to Ellington's or Strayhorn's.

Day job and train rides aside, Sherman creates his music in a home studio in a one-person endeavor via the overdubbing of the chosen instrumentation, a style that gained traction in 1970 when Paul McCartney, released McCartney (Apple Records). The record was made mostly in the then Beatle's home studio in St. John's Wood in a relatively low-tech setting. The album opened some eyes on going it alone in the music-making game. It is a safe bet that McCartney influenced Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys when the surf music maestro recorded 1977's The Beach Boys Love You (Brother/Reprise), another home studio creation with Wilson writing all of the music and playing nearly all of the instruments.

Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson were rock stars. Pop music of the day generated big bucks. The financial aspect of setting up a home studio probably did not come into play then. In 2024, the affordability roadblock of home recording is less of a factor, and therefore it is much more common. Reedman Collin Sherman records in his New York City apartment. He has offered up eighteen albums. They all resist labels, though Sherman has come to accept the tag "jazz" since 2017's Biologic Obligations (Ex-tol Recordings Recordings). And yes, he plays all the instruments, electric and acoustic. For 2024's String Planes that includes alto saxophone, oboe, electric guitar, bass clarinet, electric cello, bowed box guitar with cello strings, shruti box and drum programming.

In large part String Planes is about improvisation of alto saxophone over layered drones. The tunes are like soundtracks to your strangest dreams. The combination of oboe, electric cello, bowed box guitar with cello strings (and who came up with that combination?) on "Slipping Through the String Planes, Part 1" is surreal. It conjures images of stark desert landscapes. "Slipping Through The String Planes, Part 2" is more of the same, but more anguished. These are lonely, searching sounds. The truth may be just out of reach.

"Desert Resurrection" sounds like the rising (of whom, who knows) riding above a comfortable bed of twangy, Link Wray-like guitar. From the saxophone's perspective, this resurrection is not an easy process. The riser may be contemplating a rumble. "Pulsebow" floats on an almost pastoral vibe at first, but then the intensity swells. Sherman can be feral on the alto saxophone.

In 2024 there is a motherload of terrific music available, most self-released or coming out from one of the small, independent record companies, where nobody tells the artist what they can do. This music is often recorded in the musician's home studio. This must be freeing. To quote Dennis Trudell's 1968-penned poem "The Art Of Poetry: "You can say anything, you can say that a young Marine charging up a sand incline in Saipan suddenly thought of mittens on a string." A quarter century into the 21st century we can say of music: "You can play anything. You can play a bowed box guitar strung with cello strings and a shruti box and an electric cello and wail on the alto sax over the drones."

The next time you ride the northbound 'A' Train, keep an eye peeled for a man in a business suit, his coat perhaps slung over the armrest, his eyes focused somewhere far away. He may be dreaming up music.

Track Listing

Slipping Through the String Plane, pt. 1; Slipping Through the String Plane, pt. 2; Desert Resurrection; Pulsebow; Crisis Walk; In Limine Fortunae.


Collin Sherman
saxophone, alto
Additional Instrumentation

Collin Sherman: oboe; Bb clarinet; bass clarinet; electric guitar; electric cello; 4-String bowed box guitar with cello strings; shruti box; drum programming.

Album information

Title: String Planes | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Ex-tol Recordings

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