Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Matt Mitchell and Kate Gentile - Snark Horse (Pi-Recordings, 2021)

Snark Horse is a six disc box set is a collection of short compositions by pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Kate Gentile, which were written to serve as source material for wide ranging improvisations. This particular project began as a result of an challenge between Mitchell and Gentile to each write a single bar of music every day, as opposed to longer works that they normally composed. The scope of the music goes far beyond the two leaders with other musicians filling out the ranks depending on the concept of the particular piece. The breadth of the music is ambitious as well, incorporating small and medium group jazz, electronic music and contemporary classical notions into a broad canvas that is vibrant in color, representing the best of modern music. The leaders play on all of the ensemble tracks, supported by a who's who of creative music players, with the compositions are split between the two of them. All of the compact packages of composed data unfold into musical information, filled with unpredictable improvisation and interplay between the musicians. Often individual short compositions are strung together in medleys that lengthen into mini suites, where the rhythmic structures of the music increase and play off against one another while the musicians deconstruct the source matter in a spontaneous manner. Although the music ranges widely, it remains rooted in modern jazz, and the performances use the crucible of improvisation to interpret the written material, using collective playing and extensive soloing that makes the most of the source material and open vistas available to the groups. Having recruited such talented colleagues, you continuously hear the sound of surprise as the spontaneous performances spool out from a seed of an idea. It seems hard to believe, but all of the group pieces were recorded in one take, with the music continuously waxing and waning in a dynamic manner. The hues and gradations of the textures on the performances give their work a near physical presence, but the most overwhelming sensibility of the album is one of freedom. Not in the sense of free jazz, although there may be some of that folded in, but the freedom of creativity and the spark of ingenuity that the composers and musicians have brought to the performances on this fascinating package. Snark Horse -

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