Jacob Garchik – “The Heavens”


This is something different.

Jacob Garchik‘s new album is a nine-part suite for trombone choir, all performed by himself and recorded in his home studio.  Subtitled “The Atheist Gospel Trombone Album,” The Heavens is Garchik’s sermon on his love of religious music, gospel especially, and his view of science and religion as it exists in our universe.

That’s your context.  The moral of the story is that this is an album of rousing tunes likely to get people up and out of their seats, and slap a big smiles on the faces of all.  But this isn’t some blatant misuse of an all-brass section’s inherent power.  There’s a tunefulness here, a respect that the melody needs to be handled with care, no matter how buff the instruments holding it may be.

Your album personnel:  Jacob Garchik (trombone, sousaphone, baritone horn, slide trumpet, alto horn).


Album opens with “Creation’s Creation,” just barely over a minute in length, and every second of it sonic beauty.  Sweet extended notes, harmonies like a warm embrace.

“The Problem of Suffering” is a struggling heartbeat, dangerously asynchronous, pounding strong.

“Optimism” bubbles over with enthusiasm, barely able to keep from running ahead.

“Dialog With My Great Grandfather” is a solemn treatise on the vast amounts of sorrow that notes may carry.

“Digression On The History Of Jews And Black Music” is full of fight and not afraid to let everyone know it.  Bouncing in place with an upbeat tempo, hands at its sides balled into fists of blaring notes, and volume that gets right in a listener’s face.

“This Song Is The Center Of The Universe” is a celebration.  Of Everything.

“The Heavens” is a Sunday morning prayer, to be relieved of the prior night’s sins and the current morning’s hangover.

“Glory/Infinity/Nothing” has the giddy build of intensity of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout.” The notes get faster and higher, and it’s easy to imagine a crowd of revelers giddily circling the bandstand.

Album ends with the sweetly lilting “Be Good.”  Trombones sing a melody that would make a pop song blush with envy, and harmonize with a warmth that would melt the most stubborn snowfall.

Most tunes are just a couple minutes long each, the longest being just over six minutes, and the entire album only runs for 28 minutes.  But the shortened length speaks well of the music’s succinct ideas, and the simplicity speaks to the heart of the music.

On his site, Garchik writes…

“I was inspired to create this project out of a deep love for gospel music, and for religious music in general.  I knew I had to play it but I wanted to do it on my own terms and in a way that was honest. In my mind, music and religion are both amazing reflections of human creativity.”

… The two things that stick out in my mind from that passage is the word ‘inspired’ and the phrase “I knew I had to play it.”  This tells me that the concept wasn’t some random Bright Idea that was more novelty than creativity, and that he was gonna make this album no matter what, that his intentions came from a creative need inside him, and again, not from some wouldn’t-it-be-cool kitschy epiphany.

Why is this important?  Because it goes to measuring just how truly remarkable it is that Garchik created an album with no possible commercial appeal from an inspiration that wasn’t even interested in taking commercial considerations into account, yet produced an album that, quite frankly, has the kind of crossover irresistibility that would make me feel comfortable recommending Heavens to people who are only casual music listeners.  It’s rare to find an album with High Art concepts and inspirations that also has a popular music quality that allows it to be appreciated as more than just an example of outstanding musicianship.

I think that’s pretty cool.

Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.

Released on Yestereve Records, which is Garchik’s own label.

You can read track-specific comments by Garchik on this page on his site.  They’re pretty neat.

The album is available on Garchik’s Bandcamp page, where you can stream the album in its entirety and purchase it in a number of file formats.

Available at Amazon (MP3).