Mar 24 2017
If you go by his recorded output, there’s never a time that trumpeter Taylor Haskins has been normal. His early recordings show an intuitive awareness of the meeting points of post-bop and indie-rock, and his acuity in that particular area resulted in some music that rivaled what other like-minded souls, such as Ben Allison and Kneebody were doing at the time. The passing of time saw Haskins’ sound evolving into music that focused increasingly on melodic possibilities and how they would thrive in different environments. There was the folk-jazz of 2010’s American Dream, the chamber strings of 2014’s Fuzzy Logic and the 2011 electro-acoustic project Recombination. While a strong electronic presence is nothing new for Haskins, Recombination was emblematic of something more definitive. His newest recording Gnosis very much presents itself as the penultimate vision of that particular area of exploration.
“Hazy Days” is a hypothetical soundtrack for an AI who is always on the go. Electronic keyboards sing out in robotic languages that melt into drummer Nate Smith‘s beat-driven subtext, and the structure of the song emerges intermittently from the cloud of electronic effects. “View From Here” is much the same approach, but it has broken free from the clouds, and the direction of the song’s focus rings with clarity. Much of this change is directly attributable to the guitar and bass of guests Nir Felder and Fima Ephron, who deepen the electronic textures while charting a direct route for the melody to traverse. It’s a similar result for their treatment of “Equal Night.”
There are a number of guests on Gnosis, and it’s refreshing how much the session leader gives them space to leave their imprint. On title-track “Gnosis,” the ethereal effect of Jamie Baum’s alto flute pushes Haskins’ trumpet to even greater heights with the gentlest of nudges, while Brandee Younger directs her harp to overlay those harmonic convergences with tiny specks of melody, as if sunlight shimmering upon the rippled surface of the sea. And then there’s the contrast of the organic sounds of trombonist Josh Roseman and the hand percussion of Daniel Freedman with the electronics on “Lost Worlds,” and how their tone is the calming effect of a rising sun at the end of a manic night. More fun in contrast is found in the way the pulsing undercurrent of Todd Sickafoose’s electric bass is vastly different from the wild expressiveness of keyboardist Henry Hey, and yet they still sound joined at the hip.
This is, by far, the most different that Haskins has sounded from himself in the beginning and from the pack, now. And considering where he started and the places to where modern jazz has advanced, it’s a remarkable achievement. It’s also more than a little bit fascinating. And while Gnosis behaves as a watershed moment in the continued evolution of an artist, it might also be yet another launching point. It’s something worth hoping for.
Your album personnel: Taylor Haskins (trumpet, piano, synthesizers, analog EVI), Nate Smith (drums) and guests: Henry Hey (Rhodes, Wurlitzer), Todd Sickafoose (acoustic bass), Fima Ephron (electric bass), Nir Felder (guitar), Daniel Freedman (hand percussion), Jamie Baum (alto flute), Brandee Younger (harp), Josh Roseman (trombone).
Released on Recombination Records.
Listen to more of the album at the artist’s Bandcamp page.
Music from the Champlain Valley in New York.
And if you want to read more (and hear) about Haskins’ prior recordings, check out this write-up published around the time of his last recording (go read it).