Thursday, February 21, 2019

Anna Webber - Clockwise (Pi Recordings, 2019)

Saxophonist and flute player Anna Webber has been a band leader and in demand side person for over a decade in New York City. For this project, she studied some of her favorite classical composers, gleaning ideas that became her original compositions on this album. Employing a crack band including Jeremy Viner on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Jacob Garchik on trombone, Christopher Hoffman cello, Matt Mitchell on piano, Chris Tordini on bass and Ches Smith drums, vibraphone and percussion, the results are a superb meeting of forward thinking structural sensibility and sharp-witted improvisational creativity. "Kore II" opens the album as bass and saxophone probe, and instruments gradually fill in around the theme, bouncing gleefully around and developing a powerful forward motion, with colorful interplay between the instruments, swirling around in a fascinating improvised formation that leads to excitement and dramatic extemporization. Saxophones interweave with each other on "Idiom II," creating an interesting ripe texture interrupted by beats, and it is a very unique sound with the saxophones comprising one level of the sound. The consistency of the instrumentation and improvisation remains in flux, keeping things dependably interesting during this long and unfolding composition. "King of Denmark I / Loper" has complex fractured piano and crimped horns, coalescing into a melodic theme that is quiet and thoughtful. Elegant and refined interplay among the instruments becomes an arresting arrangement, which leads to a very intriguing tenor saxophone and cello section with their particular tone colors focusing and contrasting with one another in interesting ways. The well articulated saxophone solo continues at length developing a very imaginative improvised solo joined by the remainder of the band, and this seems to act as a big band performance in miniature, and the band gains blustery strength to push through to the the conclusion of an excellent performance. With bass, spare and slow flute and trombone the music loops and whirls mysteriously on "Clockwise," recalling Eric Dolphy's scope and vision, quietly folding in piano and vibes. The drums enter, creating a faster pattern of sound, adding further depth and causing the music to the intertwine about itself in a captivating way. "Array" features flute, piano, and deft brushes forging a light and airy feeling, as brass and flute trade phrases and ingratiate themselves, playing with dignity and discretion, leading the band to a collective improvisation where colorful brass and bowed bass, bright piano chords, collide together in order to create an interesting effect of chamber jazz with classical tones, and a wonderful piano feature for Matt Mitchell, whose playing is just lights out. Finally, "Kore I" has a repeated tone as a pulse or heartbeat, with piano building around it, gradually developing as the other instruments enter, including neat vocalized trombone, the group grows toward a progressive instrumental formation and filling out the exciting ensemble sound. Clockwise -

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