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Richard Sussman: The Evolution Suite

Dan McClenaghan By

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Arranger/conductor Gunther Schuller coined, in 1957, the term "Third Stream," to describe a musical synthesis of jazz and classical music. Early examples of this sound include Miles Davis/Gil Evans' Sketches of Spain (Columbia Records, 1961), saxophonist Stan Getz Focus (Verve Records, 1961), and the Dizzy Gillespie/J.J. Johnson collaboration, the oddly overlooked and excellent Perceptions (Verve Records, 1961).


Pianist/composer Richard Sussman takes that Third Stream idea a step further with The Evolution Suite, by combining jazz, classical and electronics. Call it the "Fourth Stream," if labels are of any import.

It is an inevitable evolution. Sussman employs a standard jazz quintet—trumpet/saxophone front line, combined with piano/bass/drums rhythm section—with a classical string quartet, and sprinkles the proceedings—or drenches them, on "Movement IV: Music of the Cubes" (more later)—with a variety of fitting electro-sounds.

There are no boundaries here. "Movement I: Into The Cosmic Kitchen," integrates the jazz/classical/electro with a deft energy, opening with a tranquil classical strings interlude before an injection of Sussman's ominous piano, then the horns awash in glowing electronics—stutters and crackles and bloops and rustlings. A propulsive groove develops, and tenor sax man Rich Perry crafts a stormy solo. "Movement II: Relaxin' At The Olympus," sounds more jazz-centric, in a ballad mode, bringing Eddie Sauter's early sixties arrangements for Stand Getz to mind.

"Movement II" is edgy and agitated, frenetic strings exploring dark alleyways haunted by gurgling electro-ghosts.

"Movement IV," highly electric, seems a soundtrack to a space ship taking the leap into a wormhole or hyperspace, or the surreal descent into a black hole, to emerge, in a brief burst of silence, a hundred thousand light years away. "Movement V," composition-wise, sounds like something Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers might have played.

There is an appealing cerebral quality to this work, and an wonderful cohesion and focus, as it deftly pushes aside labels and genres.

Track Listing: Movement I: Into The Cosmic Kitchen; Movement II: Relaxin' At the Olympus; Movement III: Nexus: Movement IV: Music Of The Cubes; Movement V: Perpetual Motion; Prevolution; Movement II (radio edit); Movement V (radio edit).

Personnel: Richard Sussman: piano, electronics; Scott Wendhoit: trumpet, flugelhorn; Rich Perry: tenor saxophone; Mike Richmond: acoustic and electric bass; Anthony Pincioti: drums; Zack Brock: electric violin. The Sirius Quartet: Gregor Heubner: violin; Fung Chern Hwei: violin; Ron Lawrence: viola; Jeremy Harman: cello.

Title: The Evolution Suite | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Zoho Music

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