Whispers, Hymns And A Murmur / Way Out East

Kurt Gottschalk By

Sign in to view read count

Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet
Way Out East

Wayne Horvitz
Whispers, Hymns And A Murmur

Guitarist Bill Frisell lost some fans, but gained many more, with his much ballyhooed departure from New York and the decibel level the city represents. Most of that reaction was based not on Frisell's own work in the '80s and '90s, but on his association with John Zorn, and in particular the all-time downtown supergroup, Naked City.

Somehow, Naked City keyboardist Wayne Horvitz has escaped such scrutiny, despite the fact that he too moved out west and got all quiet. While his own Zony Mash more than get their groove on, they're hardly in the attack league of Naked City, or even Horvitz's own contemporaneous band The President. In recent years, Horvitz has gone softer still, pitching himself as a chamber composer for jazz ensembles.

Of two recent projects showcasing Horvitz's new, composition-oriented approach, Way Out East is the more successful. That may simply be because it features a mixed ensemble, something Horvitz has more experience of than the string quartet he writes for on the other disc. The Gravitas Quartet features the unusual instrumentation of cello (Peggy Lee), trumpet (Ron Miles), bassoon (Sara Schoenbeck) and Horvitz on piano and electronics.

Way Out East is at times reminiscent of Frisell's quartet of the late '90s (of which Miles was also a member). It's a moody, melancholic set of eleven compositions with room for solos—but never solos that overwhelm the music. The performance focuses primarily on Horvitz's compositions and arrangements, rather than presenting serial opportunities for individual musicians to shine.

Whispers, Hymns And A Murmur is of a more strictly classical bent, scored for the Koehne Quartet with guest soloist Eyvind Kang, and with Horvitz doing electronic processing. It's also a more conceptual affair, with parts based on a Harold Pinter play, labor organizer Joe Hill, and the songs of the Industrial Workers of the World union of the early 20th century.

As on Way Out East, the electronics (for better or worse) barely seep through the mix. But the concept doesn't quite seep through either. There's nothing in the scoring that evokes late-night meetings, labor strikes or commie-baiting and, unfortunately, not much evoking anything else either. It's an oddly romantic yet stiflingly monotone set, with short movements from three longer works shuffled and scattered about. Altogether a little too sterile.

Considered together, these two discs suggest there's a pretty large gap between composing for a small improvising group and writing/arranging for a string quartet. Or perhaps the Gravitas set just finds Horvitz coming more from the heart. Whatever the case, the albums show that, more than a decade after leaving New York for Seattle, Horvitz is still challenging himself and still has the ability, on occasion, to follow through.

Tracks and Personnel

Way Out East

Tracks: LB; Way Out East; A Remembrance...An Afterthought...What Could Have Been A Waltz; Between Here And Heaven; Berlin 1914; Ladies And Gentleman; Reveille; You Were Just Here; Our Brief Duet; One Morten; World Peace And Quiet.

Personnel: Wayne Horvitz: piano, electronics; Peggy lee: cello; Ron Miles: trumpet; Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon.

Whispers, Hymns And A Murmur

Tracks: Mountain Language IV; Mountain Language III; Whispers, Hymns And A Murmur/I. Hymn I; Whispers, Hymns And A Murmur/II. Whispers I; Whispers, Hymns And A Murmur/III. Hymn II; Whispers, Hymns And A Murmur/IV. Whispers II; Whispers, Hymns And A Murmur/V. A Murmer; Mountain Language

Personnel: Koehne Quartet: Joanna Lewis: first violin; Anne Harvey-Nagl: second violin; Petra Ackermann: viola; Melissa Coleman: cello; Eyvind Kang: viola (guest soloist); Wayne Horvitz: electronic processing.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Ivo Perelman Makes It Rain Multiple Reviews Ivo Perelman Makes It Rain
by Mark Corroto
Published: November 12, 2017
Read Jazz from the US Virgin Islands' new breed Multiple Reviews Jazz from the US Virgin Islands' new breed
by Nigel Campbell
Published: November 4, 2017
Read Joe Rosenberg's Ensembles Multiple Reviews Joe Rosenberg's Ensembles
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 2, 2017
Read Abbey Rader in the Spotlight: Ritual and Phenobarbital Sessions Multiple Reviews Abbey Rader in the Spotlight: Ritual and Phenobarbital...
by Kevin Press
Published: October 27, 2017
Read Two Sides of John Wetton Multiple Reviews Two Sides of John Wetton
by Geno Thackara
Published: October 20, 2017
Read "A Sense of Place" Multiple Reviews A Sense of Place
by Geno Thackara
Published: October 12, 2017
Read "Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…" Multiple Reviews Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…
by John Eyles
Published: January 7, 2017
Read "Psalms and Poetry: Den Danske Salmeduo and Nicolai Munch-Hansen" Multiple Reviews Psalms and Poetry: Den Danske Salmeduo and Nicolai...
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 2, 2016
Read "Badbadnotgood Is Truly Goodgoodnotbad" Multiple Reviews Badbadnotgood Is Truly Goodgoodnotbad
by Dave Wayne
Published: December 20, 2016
Read "The Narell Brothers: Steelpan Music Merchants" Multiple Reviews The Narell Brothers: Steelpan Music Merchants
by Nigel Campbell
Published: September 9, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor