265

Andrew Rathbun: The Idea of North

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Andrew Rathbun: The Idea of North What effect does solitude have on a person? How can one grow as a result of being alone? These questions provoke a musical response from saxophonist, Andrew Rathbun, though the roots of his inspiration for this music lie over forty years ago. In 1967, legendary concert pianist Glenn Gould produced a radio documentary called "The Idea of North" where simultaneously played voices narrated five people's views on Northern Canada. Gould called this experiment "contrapuntal radio," an extension of his own musical voice and an exploration of the theme of solitude, a state which he needed creatively and craved personally. In his own way, New York-based Rathbun's six compositions explore the vast expanses of his native Canada, translating the extremes of geography, climate, and the idea of solitude into musical narratives of contrasting mood.

Gould, by his own admission, was a failed composer, a charge however, which could not be leveled at Rathbun. The six pieces are as structurally challenging as they are melodically pleasing, and the tender rendition of saxophonist Wayne Shorter's beautiful ballad "Teru" can be seen in the wider context of Rathbun's approach to music as a meeting of like minds. Like Shorter—whether on tenor or soprano—Rathbun embarks on absorbing excursions of cerebral design and emotive import. Trumpeter Taylor Haskins, guitarist Nate Radley and pianist Frank Carlberg are no less impressive, but much of the music's appeal lies in the imaginative harmonic and contrapuntal lines that weave in and out of the ongoing narrative.

The leader's canny orchestration stands out on the expansive "Across the Country," which opens with a delightful bass line from the ever-inventive Jay Anderson, who forms an intuitive rhythm section with drummer Michael Sarin and Carlberg. Significant support also comes from Radley, who excels equally in the role of deft accompanist. Rathbun and Radley unravel solos of great fluidity and momentum either side of the richly harmonic collective voice which carries the tune's melody. Delightful too, is the pairing of soprano and muted trumpet against razor-sharp guitar lines on the vaguely melancholic "December."

There are striking dynamics at play within the avant-garde "Harsh"; a slightly jarring ambience where nervy brass, chattering bass and choppy piano are punctuated by a sinister motif. The music becomes gradually more urgent, spurred by Carlberg, as the sextet flirts with swing of a restless nature. "Rockies" sounds like an expansion on these ideas, dark and brooding, though with an inescapable walking rhythm over which the front line instruments carve out taut solos, laden with tension.

In contrast, lilting soprano, lyrical bass and gently cascading piano illuminate 18th century German composer Christoph Gluck's lovely "Minuet and Dance of the Blessed Spirit, while "Arctic" is a surprisingly warm-toned, straight-ahead piece with a strong melodic core to close the disc.

Rathbun's music is intellectually challenging and yet immediately accessible. Rathbun enjoys outstanding support from his musicians, but if solitude—even as an abstract idea—serves up music this satisfying, then maybe he should spend more time alone in his special place.


Track Listing: Echoes; Harsh; Across The Country; December; Teru; Rockies; Minuet and Dance of the Blessed Spirits; Arctic.

Personnel: Andrew Rathbun: saxophones; Taylor Haskins: trumpet; Nate Radley: guitar; Frank Carlberg: piano, electric piano; Jay Anderson: bass; Michael Sarin: drums.

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: SteepleChase Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Duet" CD/LP/Track Review Duet
by Budd Kopman
Published: October 1, 2016
Read "Metamorphosis" CD/LP/Track Review Metamorphosis
by James Nadal
Published: July 10, 2016
Read "Michael Shrieve's Spellbinder" CD/LP/Track Review Michael Shrieve's Spellbinder
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 15, 2016
Read "Confidences" CD/LP/Track Review Confidences
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 3, 2017
Read "Bring Joy" CD/LP/Track Review Bring Joy
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: January 4, 2017
Read "Meditations on Freedom" CD/LP/Track Review Meditations on Freedom
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 11, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!