Quin Kirchner: The Shadows and The Light

Mark Corroto By

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Quin Kirchner: The Shadows and The Light
Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam war film, Apocalypse Now, was released in 1979. After sitting for 2 and ½ hours, a viewer might have hoped for theater management to stand at the exits to hand out pamphlets explaining what had just gone down. The conflict had ended 4 years prior, and most war movies, pre- Vietnam, were straight-forward, America-saves-the-world affairs. Goodnight. In between a surf crazed Robert Duval, Playboy Bunnies, and the insane Colonel Kurtz played by Marlon Brando, the movie goers couldn't be blamed for being flummoxed and disoriented.

What does this have to do with The Shadows and The Light by drummer and composer Quin Kirchner? Nothing, and everything. With subsequent viewings of Coppola's film it became obvious that the work was more than the pieces of its parts. It required a viewing as a whole within the context of modern life, just as Joseph Conrad's 1899 book Heart Of Darkness—the inspiration for the movie—did. So it presented a "forest for the trees" problem.

Hopefully this won't occur when listening to The Shadows and The Light. But with the download, shuffle, and random listening nation we live in, the forest could get overlooked once more. That would be a shame, because Kirchner builds this album as a chronicle, a collection of narratives, and shuffle or cherry-picking of tracks certainly would diminish the experience. The whole is much more than it's parts.

This release, Kirchner's second as a leader, follows The Other Side Of Time (Astral Spirits, 2018), another double album gem. From that first outing, he is rejoined by trombonist Nick Broste, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, saxophonist Nate LePine, and bassist Matt Ulery. Kirchner adds the keyboards of Rob Clearfield, and the mega talents of saxophonists Greg Ward and Nick Mazzarella.

The opening track, "Shadow Intro," is an overdubbed Kirchner solo with drums, congas, and space-age synthesizer. Within the brief span of the song (clocking in at just over 2 minutes) he recreates an hour-long Sun Ra orchestra jam session. This is a hint of things to come. His torrents of percussion slip into "Bata Chop" with Clearfield conjuring a Sonny Blount spirit via Wulitzer piano against Kirchner's West Africa drumming. The organic composition grows deeper with bass and saxophone language additions. Kirchner is taking us through the universal entrails of jazz, mixing the vision of Mr. Ra with the the funky small big band swing of Frank Foster's "At This Point I Time," a spiritually pleasing rendition of Kelan Philip Cohran's "Sahara," with braided horn lines and kalimba, and an Ornette Coleman-inspired take on Carla Bley's "King Korn." Missing Broste, Lepine, and Stein's solos on the latter track would be a mistake. Then, all the horns sans Kirchner can be heard on "Star Cluster," which slides into the orchestrated meditation of "Moon Vision." This is a skipping about in describing these tracks, but a straight through experience suggests Kirchner might be ending with Sun Ra's "Planet Earth," which he pulls off with elegance. But no, he blasts through Ra into his own compositions, the title track and "Lucid Dream." Both pieces outstanding examples of composing, arranging, and ultra-sympathetic performance. These 2 discs (CD or LP) are a mini masterpiece.

Track Listing

Shadow Intro; Batá Chop; At This Point In Time; Rift; Pathways; Sahara; Star Cluster; Moon Vision; Ecliptics; Planet Earth; Jupiter Moon; Horizons; King Korn; The Shadows and The Light; Lucid Dream.


Quin Kirchner: drums; Rob Clearfield: piano; Matt Ulery: bass, acoustic; Greg Ward: saxophone; Nick Broste: trombone; Nate LePine: saxophone, tenor; Nick Mazzarella: saxophone; Jason Stein: clarinet, bass.

Album information

Title: The Shadows and The Light | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Astral Spirits

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