"The Suit," drummer Wally Schnalle writes in the liner notes to his new album of the same name, "is simply a metaphor for a myriad of musical constraints such as: idiom, genre, common practice, expectations, bag, style, and convention. Each of these, and more, I find can impose severe limitations on creativity. And so the straight jacket (Suit) image. Seeking to avoid such restraints, Schnalle casts the net far and wide both compositionally and instrumentally on The Suit. Historic jazz forms are always present, but they mingle with hip-hop, electronica, and good old fashioned prog rock, to name just a few of the styles surveyed.
Helping Schnalle out on the disc is a capable and willing band consisting of Jeff Massanari (guitar), Jeff Pittson (keys), and Peter Barshay (acoustic and electric basses). Also credited is Schnalle's laptop, for facilitating "sounds you don't hear from the typical jazz bandstand. Electronics do play a large role in shaping the sound of the album. Rather than taking a dogmatic position on synthesizers and drum machines, I can only say I am favor of them when they sound good and against them when they sound like one of the preprogrammed sample tunes that are used as demos on portable keyboards. For the most part, the electronics on The Suit are used for texture and to build atmosphere, rather than to mimic the sound of an actual band.
Thus "15th Street Rundown features skittering synthesized percussion and nervous sounding turntable effects, but the star attraction is the wailing, Santana-sounding guitar work by Massanari. Likewise, the swirling keyboards on "Red Marty spread an aura of mystery that Barshay's acoustic bass lopes through. Schnalle's playing is powerfully fluid throughout, while at the same time he provides a gritty focus that grounds some of the spacier electronic moments.
These players are clearly excited by the possibilities of the music they are making. Schnalle and his band seem to understand that there is nowhere to hide once you step out of the "suit. Of course, once one gets past the fear of not having the standard fallback positions to rely on, the reality and promise of true freedom sets in.
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