Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Umbra: West

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
American road trips have long inspired writers, from Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck and Tom Wolfe, to Hunter S. Thompson, Robert M. Pirsig and Bill Bryson. Fewer are the extended works, similarly inspired, written by musicians. Some things, it seems, may be easier put into words. Umbra's West is inspired by founding member Chris Guilfoyle 's 2017 road trip, as evidenced through the song titles, through North America's Western states to Canada. It marks Umbra's full debut, but can be seen as a logical stepping stone from the band's eponymous debut from 2016.

That EP announced Guilfoyle's penchant for complex interweaving threads, melodic and rhythmic, with the guitarist playing tag with the twin horns of tenor saxophonist Sam Comerford and soprano/altoist Chris Engel. Then as now, the rhtyhm section of bassist Barry Donohue and drummer Matthew Jacobson rounds out a quartet where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Like his father, renowned bassist/composer Ronan Guilfoyle , Chris Guilfoyle writes for the individuals, delighting in the juxtapositions between knotty lines and handsome melodies, contrasting simultaneous tempos, soft plateaus and soaring peaks.

All these elements color "L.A.." Swirling, fuzzy electronics and serene dual saxophones entwine on the intro before a gnawing guitar riff kick-starts the rhythm section. Staccato motifs circle like a stuck needle on vinyl, an impasse resolved when Engel cuts loose on soprano over a visceral bass and drums groove. Guilfoyle's entry coincides with a pulling back on the quintet's reins, the guitarist's lyricism contrasting with Engel's fire. The quintet unites in a punchy unison sprint to the line. It's a punchy calling card and would make a great live opening number.

The harmonic finesse of "San Francisco"'s motif, underpinned by Jacobson's feathery brush work, soon gives way to more urgent rhythms and bright, call-and-response between alto and tenor saxophones that frame Comerford's tenor flight. An unaccompanied drum feature concludes that chapter and bleeds into "Intro to Portland"—an atmospheric electro-acoustic vignette. It's Jacobson's emerging groove that announces "Portland," inviting a sparkling solo from Guilfoyle, who then dovetails with the arrival of the closely harnessed saxophones. Comerford's' mazy tenor solo is the centerpiece of a mellow number that winds its way elegantly and without fanfare, to its conclusion.

Without pause, Guilfoyle's ruminative solo spot on "Intro to Seattle" follows on like an unfinished thought. The reverie is broken by the rocky guitar and driving beat of "Seattle"—an appropriate homage to the city of grunge; here, the soaring saxophones are at their most melodic and uplifting. A change of gear ushers in staccato horn phrasing, with Guilfoyle and Donohue picking up the knotty pattern when Engel stretches out on alto. In a stirring finale, Guilfoyle rocks out in brief but incendiary fashion over bouyant saxophones. The episodic "Vancouver" toggles between tightly-woven melodic-rhythmic lines and overlapping free-form flights. A hypnotic guitar-and-bass ostinato flares briefly before Jacobson's cymbal, as soft as sea breeze, put a full stop on the narrative.

Emotionally engaging and technically impressive, Guilfoyle's Umbra makes a significant statement with West. Hopefully, this vibrant yet lyrical outing will launch Umbra to the wider touring its talents most definitely merit.

Track Listing: L.A.; San Francisco; Intro to Portland; Portland; Intro to Seattle; Seattle; Vancouver.

Personnel: Chris Guilfoyle: guitar; Sam Comerford: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Chris Engel: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Barry Donohue: bass; Matthew Jacobson: drums.

Title: West | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced


comments powered by Disqus

Album Reviews
  • West by Ian Patterson
Read more articles


Self Produced


Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Andy's Bar & Grill
Denton, TX


Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read School of Fish Album Reviews
School of Fish
By Dan McClenaghan
March 23, 2019
Read Blood Album Reviews
By John Sharpe
March 23, 2019
Read Around Again: The Music Of Carla Bley Album Reviews
Around Again: The Music Of Carla Bley
By Jerome Wilson
March 23, 2019
Read Hydro 2 Album Reviews
Hydro 2
By Mark Corroto
March 23, 2019
Read Old School Revolution Album Reviews
Old School Revolution
By Chris M. Slawecki
March 23, 2019
Read Cuando Sea Necesario Album Reviews
Cuando Sea Necesario
By Dan McClenaghan
March 22, 2019
Read West 60th Album Reviews
West 60th
By Peter Hoetjes
March 22, 2019