Thursday, January 11, 2018

Scott DuBois - Autumn Wind (ACT Music, 2017)

Celebrating the beauty and heartbreak of autumn, this album that melds aspects of modern jazz, contemporary classical music and Americana to create a musical impression of that most mercurial of seasons. The main quartet consists of Scott DuBois on guitar and conduction, Gebhard Ullmann on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Thomas Morgan on bass and Kresten Osgood on drums. They are aided and abetted at times by further quartets of strings and reed instruments. Opening with the juxtaposition of angular shards of slashing electric guitar with piercing melodic notes of beauty, there builds a spacious open section for guitar and bass quietly performing in freedom. Using patience and using the sonorous nature of their instruments, acoustic and electric working together and moving forward, the music builds a sense of synaesthesia, with the enveloping golden glow of calm and safety present as the song progresses to its conclusion. There is a low horn, Ullman's bass clarinet that adds further textures and possibilities to the music, melding very well amidst the electric guitar and acoustic bass. The addition of drums drives the music forward with a greater sense of urgency, as bass and percussion provide an elastic groove that can soothe or shape the music into sharp angles, further aided by the appearance of strident saxophone. Storm clouds build on the horizon but also assume a framing structure for streaks of melodic guitar that run through the playing on this album, allowing the music to develop its own character and cohesive identity, with a sense of release as the music resolves in a flurry of activity. The full band performance is quite impressive, building a wide array of colors and hues, a wide textural palette completed by the range of instruments on hand like the raw and stark bass clarinet which interweaves through a variety of thoughtful composed and improvised sections. There is an arc of emotional development to the music that can move from thrashing drums and whinnying saxophone to pastoral temperament and use both motifs equally well, culminated by a thrilling blowout of strings, reeds and percussion that creates a massive edifice of sound and fury. The music serves to beautifully illustrate the moods and modes of autumn as a season and the autumnal frame of mind, seeking peace amid the squalls of life’s travails. From the riotous blooms of autumn's color in the landscape to the stark and barren trees of early winter, the music takes the listener on a personal journey, echoing the season’s many hues within its structure, a gradual unveiling of the nature of the inner and outer world. The stoic bowed bass of the latter music joins with further strings at times to usher in the chill of the approaching winter, leaving a sense of melancholy as the colors fade, and the birds take flight for warmer climes, and the guitar and drums urgently fly across barren fields, yielding to the dark enveloping night of the string section. A patient saxophone solo buoyed by updrafts of bass and strings bring home the autumnal glow of the music and serves to encapsulate the strength of the music and the musicians who made it, carving out their own identity within the overall theme of the concept. This is a long album, but it has a story to tell that makes use of that time, never rushing the arc of its narrative journey that is immersive in scope and ambition. Autumn Wind -

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