The Greek philosopher Heraclitus claimed that "No one ever steps in the same river twice," as everything is in flux and constantly changing. By the same logic we might say that no jazz musician ever plays the same piece twice. Now consider the album Tributaries
, a river-inspired work created by Jack Cooper
(guitar) and Jeff Tobias
(saxophone). On the calm surface it all seems pre-composed and constant, yet in the puddles of space there is scope for both men to interpret and improvise. Performed live this album would still be the same river, but each time the artists would be new people in new waters.
Cooper is the mainstay behind British art-rock band Modern Nature, whose jazz inclinations contain a shiver of folk-horror. Tobias is a member of New York jazz-psych group Sunwatchers
and has numerous eclectic session credits. Tributaries
contains two lengthy and compatible tracks, "Wicken" and "Debden," named after feeder streams of the River Cam in Cambridgeshire, England. The music has echoes of older times, or maybe the magic one finds along quiet riverbanks.
Minimal it certainly is, with Cooper's single guitar notes feeling more like piano prods. His input is sharp and glinting, where the sax is full of gentle sustain. A solid hardness meets shining softness here in an orderly flow. With its condensed sound, Tributaries
relates to December Concert
by Bill MacKay
and Matthew Lux
(ears&eyes, 2014) but in truth this project goes some way beyond, say, a Colin Stetson
work in its naked essence. Cooper is an admirer of Evan Parker
(who records with Modern Nature), Anthony Braxton
, Grant Green
and Derek Bailey
Tobias often imitates or closely shadows Cooper's deft chords and pickings. Like a mirror that reflects each other's thoughts, these instrumentals really convey a sense of two musicians confiding. This could be a soundtrack to events only they have witnessed. Tributaries
suggests stillness yet its air is vibrating with mystery. Time is suspended, with imagined characters caught in their own friezes, in bright afternoon sunlight or on a crystal winter morn. Tobias offers a haunting range of timbres from sweet swellings to tremors and gurglings. The vibe is pastoral, langorous and hazy featuring long moments of silence, yet within the silence lies something anxious, almost supernatural. In that sense, Tributaries
is as much Nordic as English with its spartan and pensive themes. It has a scenic presence where colour, texture and tone are everything. Appropriate enough when we learn that Cooper was once in a group called Ultimate Painting.
FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Since 1995, shortly after the dawn of the internet, All About Jazz has been a champion of jazz, supporting it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles
for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to rigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today