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Sketches: Volume One

Dan Bilawsky By

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Compositional specificity can be a blessing and a curse. It's easy to understand how having every last instruction set to paper can be helpful when it comes to starting the music making process, but the flip side of that argument is that there's nothing left to actually create if everything is already there in black and white on the page.

Jazz, as a form of creative music, has always wrestled to find a balance between structure and freedom, and it often ends up falling into one of several categories: free and potentially formless music that pays no mind to the idea of notation; (semi-)scripted music with openings for improvisational elements; and wholly scripted affairs that leave no space for individualized exploration. The majority of what's considered jazz falls into that middle category, as does the music presented here, but the collectively-operated, Brooklyn-based quintet known as Sketches plays at that idea from a different angle. Each band member brings a sketch to rehearsal, and that small bit of music becomes the basis for a composition that's ultimately written by another band member. Then, the band fleshes out the pieces together, with each musician adding their thoughts and ideas to the mix. The members of Sketches consider this to be "truly collaborative composition," and it's hard to argue with that thought after hearing the methodology of construction and the music itself.

In creating music in such a fashion, the sketcher and composer must each come to terms with where their personality exists and where the personalities can meet. As a listener, it's difficult to suss out these separations and likenesses, but the music definitely speaks to a process of shared creation. No two songs sound alike, yet everything benefits from a sort of sonic connectivity from track to track. The music itself can be funky ("Cornerstone"), bluesy ("Dusk On The Porch"), haunting ("Shadow Search") or cautiously curious ("Knew").

No single personality dominates here, but everybody makes their mark. Drummer Ziv Ravitz sounds best when he's guiding the group with his cymbal work ("Trust"), bassist Martin Nevin's personality is most noticeable in more spacious environments, and pianist Jarrett Cherner brings beauty into the picture and serves as a go-between, linking the horns and the rhythm section together ("Running With The Princess"). Trumpeter Matt Holman and saxophonist Jeremy Udden both sound terrific, whether working in tandem, weaving around one another, or standing apart during solos.

These songs may have all started life as unfinished bits and pieces, but they've grown into wondrous creations under the watchful eyes of these men. Hopefully a Volume 2 will follow.

Track Listing: Trust; Dark; Cornerstone; Dusk On The Porch; Shadow Search; Knew; Chain Letter CCC #1; Running With The Princess.

Personnel: Matt Holman: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeremy Udden: alto saxophone; Jarrett Cherner: piano; Martin Nevin: bass; Ziv Ravitz: drums.

Title: Volume One | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: BaldHill Records

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