Stand in a field, surrounded by nothing, wrapped in silence, and all by your lonesome. Listen to the sound of music, carried upon the breeze from a distance far away. Fearing that it might dissipate before reaching you, your ear reaches out to meet it. It’s just a whisper. Some of the notes fall by the wayside before hitting your ear, but your brain kicks into action and fills in the gaps. The understanding that this music crossed a wide expanse gives it a sense of timelessness… like light from distant stars, it’s a sonic form of time travel. The understanding that this music, having traversed a wide expanse, is different from its original expression gives it a sense of formlessness… like blurry images seen from far away, this music could have sounded like just about anything.
But you do hear it and it does touch you, and its presence in that silent field, all by your lonesome has an evocative presence, a profound sense of something special… like a gift.
I remember sitting 7500 feet above sea level, at the top of Green Mountain, and listening to the distant sound of a brass marching band lifting up to me from down below in Boulder, at the University of Colorado’s football stadium. I remember standing outside my home in Denver in Five Points, and listening to the sounds of gospel drifting along a cool Spring breeze on a serene Sunday morning. I remember the unmistakable sound of Thelonious Monk’s piano straining to be heard from some untraceable source from any number of the windows lining the rows of apartment buildings in my Lakeview neighborhood pad in Chicago.
These were the thoughts inspired in me by Frames, the new album from Brian Haas and Matt Chamberlain. Touching upon a number of influences, spanning the range from the stride piano of Fats Waller, the melodic shape-shifting of Brad Mehldau, the modern electronica of Air, the haunting dreaminess of Bill Frisell, the modern classical austerity of a Nils Frahm, and the minimalism of Steve Reich and Brian Eno Music for Airports… it’s like music carried from a distance far away. And these influences don’t shape the music so much as whisper into its ear.
Your album personnel: Brian Haas (piano) and Matt Chamberlain (drums, percussion).
Brian Haas, a long-time member of the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, wrote these compositions not long after leaving Tulsa, Oklahoma behind and setting down roots in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This music speaks to that area’s Big Sky languor… the feeling of being simultaneously dwarfed by something much greater than you while also feeling very much a part of it all because of its proximity. The desert air instills a quiet over its surroundings, and it carries sound from very far away.
Matt Chamberlain has manned the drums for a disparate group of musicians, but most relevant in this instance has to be his contribution to the Floratone ensemble, a group that included Bill Frisell, Tucker Martine, Lee Townsend, Eyvind Kang, Ron Miles, and Viktor Krauss. Their music was a mix of jazz, folk, and electronica, and it sounded like all these things but, even more, it sounded like none of them. The ratios were perfected, and it sounded like something new. Their two albums had an ethereal presence that provoked a series of emotional reactions. It was like a soundtrack to a movie soundtrack.
Frames behaves in much the same way. The ambient sparseness of “Birth” develops quickly into a swirling tempest of melodic pattern repetition. “Niche” employs similar devices, but takes a more linear approach to reach its destination.
Both “Open Windows” and “Death: An Introduction” possess a comforting warmth… the former of darkness settling in over the land, and the latter of the rising sun chasing that darkness away.
The waltz-like formalism of “Prism” is followed by the swaying boisterousness of “Of Many, One,” and the shifting of kinetic motion seems natural, even logical. This transformation continues from the pounding tempo of “Drive” and into the mercurial contemplation of “Death: An Observation.”
“Closing Window” has a staggered gait that suddenly gets a second wind and takes right off. leading into the percussion downpour of “An Empty House,” in which Haas and Chamberlain chop up the beat into tiny servings.
The album ends with the introspective “From Nothing, Infinite,” a tune that barely registers as a whisper, and could be and come from anything.
Released on the Royal Potato Family label.
Music from the Santa Fe, NM scene.
Available to purchase on October 15th, 2013.
Pre-order the album from the Royal Potato Family site (before 10/15/13), and Brian Haas will improvise a piece of music based on your Personal Astrological Chart. Seriously. Details HERE.
I’ll update the links when the album becomes available on eMusic.