Incorporating the blues and gospel and ragtime that comprise the roots of Jazz music, and then channeling it with a forward-thinking inventiveness, Robert Stillman’s Archaic Future Players offer up with Station Wagon Interior Perspective that potent mix of past and future, synthesized down in the present moment… a sense of timelessness and nostalgia that is as exciting as it is intoxicating.
It’s unsurprising that the ensemble echoes the voices of similarly inclined musicians like Charles Mingus and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra for their four-movement tribute to deceased folk guitarist John Fahey… a musician who also embraced the roots of the past as he constructed his own inventive expressions.
Your album personnel: Robert Stillman (Fender Rhodes, drums), Jeremy Udden (C-melody saxophone), Kenny Warren (trumpet), Dave Noyes (trombone), and Ben Stapp (tuba).
The album opens with “Part I: Waltz,” a song of heavy notes delivered with a staggering cadence, yet lofted up with a boozy euphoria that lets the music hang in the air, floating weightlessly. Ben Stapp’s tuba brings a fullness to the tempo, and Jeremy Udden’s c-melody saxophone adds brightness to its edges.
That same cadence continues into “Part II: Blues,” though expressed with a casualness that lends it a lighter gait. Kenny Warren’s trumpet has a melodic richness thick with feeling, and Stillman’s drums crackle off its surface like sparks from an open wire.
“Part III: Stomp” comes hard out of the gate. Dave Noyes’s trombone opens the doors for Stillman to glide through with the most beautiful solo on Fender Rhodes. It’s a stunning moment. The lightness of Rhodes contrasts dramatically with the heaviness representative of the album up until that moment, and the way it puts this album’s tunefulness into sharp focus is a revelatory moment. That the ensemble then builds up from this into something bigger and more expansive, the tempo getting chipper and the harmonies warmer, it illustrates this album’s winning attitude.
The four-part movement comes to a close with “Part IV: Funeral March.” It has the endearingly celebratory tones inherent in the somber New Orleans ritual of taking the recently deceased to their final resting place… and symbolic of this ensemble’s method of honoring the traditions of music while simultaneously expressing itself with its own personality.
The album has two bonus tracks: “Epilogue for J.F.” and “NR Rag.” Both tunes are introspective piano pieces, achieving a meditative dissonance and possessing an identity separate from that of the album’s four-part movement, while doing nothing to clash with the spirit of the album. This is a smart recording, and the placement of the bonus tracks does nothing to change that.
I’ve been listening to this album for awhile now, and am just getting around to writing something about it. My enjoyment hasn’t waned a bit, and I’m just as excited to recommend it today as I would have been the first time I discovered this fine recording.
Released on Stillman’s Archaic Future Recordings label.