Thursday, February 14, 2013

Curtis Hasselbring - Number Stations (Cuneiform, 2013)

Curtis Hasselbring, a Brooklyn based trombonist and composer, became interested in the concept of shortwave radio number stations. Blasts of enigmatic words, numbers and code make fertile ground for an open minded jazz group to cover, and the group on this album consists of Mary Halvorson on guitar, Trevor Dunn on bass, Matt Moran on vibes and marimba, Chris Speed on tenor saxophone and clarinet and Ches Smith and Satoshi Takeishi on drums. The band makes very dynamic music that will shift between mood and texture at will with gradations and subtlety. “Tux is Traitor” opens with probing bass with percussion and vibes built on that foundation. Mary Halvorson’s guitar ramps up the pace and develops a complex interplay amongst the instruments with saxophone soaring over mindful and present drumming. Strong pulsating drums, vibes and accompanying guitar snarls kick “Green Dress, Maryland Welcome Center, 95 NB” of to a thrilling start. After a great sound-sculpting guitar solo, the music mysteriously ratchets down dramatically to an eerie calm. The short “Avoid Sprinter” is a bracing blast of pulsating drums, vibes and trombone, leading into the album ending “37° 56' 39'' by 111° 32” which has percussion laying the foundation for Hasslebring’s trombone to arc overhead, pulling along a cool guitar riff. The music resolves itself with a solid backbeat, around which swirling trombone, vibes and bass orbit. Number Stations -

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