Jun 30 2014
As a new generation of jazz musicians makes its mark on the Pacific-Northwest scene, composer Wayne Horvitz’s impact upon it is becoming increasingly evident. Horvitz’s curiously cinematic mix of jazz, folk, chamber, and blues eschews common formulas for a singular expression that is equal parts distant warmth, cerebral complexity, and folksy charm. It gives the sense of a foreign language that sounds intimately familiar.
Douglas Detrick’s Anywhen Ensemble speaks that language. The Portland outfit has put out a series of albums that utilize Horvitz’s sonic lexicon, emphasizing different aspects of its rules of grammar. Their 2008 debut, Walking Across, an album inspired by bridges around the world, illustrated their fluency with the different forms of the Horvitz language, often shifting between the different elements, but occasionally hitting upon that perfect synthesis of a composite expression. Their 2011 release Rivers Music fit in with the contemporary classical crowd… two long movements that matched lovely floating harmonies with odd inflections interspersed at unusual intervals. It was a bit of a diversion from the previous recording, but not an unpleasant one.
2014 sees two new projects from the Anywhen Ensemble. The project Awake! Awake! has them collaborating with Horvitz himself on piano, reworking traditional folk tunes. And then there’s their 2014 release, The Bright and Rushing World, a ten-part suite that gravitates around its opening motif, offering up different variations and facets of that opening, though with a subtlety and patience that often waits until the very end to fully reveal itself.
It’s here that Detrick’s ensemble most strongly favors the chamber music aspect of their sound. Pieces snap into place with one another with the clean precision of building blocks, but the constructions possess unusual shapes and forms, resulting in unexpected pauses and sudden changes in direction… except when seen through the rear-view mirror, a perspective that leaves it all making perfect sense.
The clash and fray of Detrick and Assadullahi on trumpet and sax will seem slightly out of place from what has come previously, until, on the turn of a dime, they suddenly lock into a common trajectory, and now what appeared to be competing points of view reveals itself to have been one line of conversation all along. Drummer Biesack will seem to be trailing the action for most of a piece, but then will come to show, in fact, he’s been leading the charge. The cello of Shirley Hunt are the wings that spur the ensemble into flight and the bassoon of Steve Vacchi is the force of gravity that maintains the ensemble’s composure and prevents it from fluttering away. And then there’s those moments, like on “How Can You Live Without a Name,” when the ensemble moves as one, with a grace and an elegance and a sublime beauty that requires no explanation, no rear view mirror, and no talk of influences.
Music that is both challenging and comforting.
Your album personnel: Douglas Detrick (trumpet), Hashem Assadullahi (alto & soprano saxes), Shirley Hunt (cello), Steve Vacchi (bassoon), and Ryan Biesack (drums).
Released on Navona Records.
Jazz from the Portland, Oregon scene.
Download a free track, courtesy of the artists, by hitting the arrow button (pointing downward) on the audio player above.
Other things you should probably know:
Detrick is also a member of Operation Northwoods, whose The Bureau of Fiction was one of the best things to come out in 2013. I believe I had it slotted at #20 on the Bird is the Worm Top 30 of 2013 list. I still listen to it all the time. Read the review HERE.