Jun 2 2015
There’s a natural compulsion for an artist to look down at the patch of land they call home and try to draw out the story from the soil. Because music is a lineage, there is a drive to examine its roots, even if the goal is to frame the present or look to the future. It’s why music that speaks to both days past and present is so damn compelling. A natural byproduct of this process is that, in recent years, there’s been an abundance of folk-jazz hybrids. At times, the ratio swings to the former, and it’s where a Bill Frisell Americana is situated. Others attempt to keep the emphasis on the jazz influence. Old Time Musketry falls into that category.
Their debut Different Times opened with an emphasis on the folk, then over the course of the album increasingly shed its folk quality and slid into a modern post-bop vehicle. On the other hand, their sophomore release, Drifter, finds the sweet spot between those two influences, and allows each quality to shine with an equal brilliance.
The melodies are sharper. They also are nurtured to a fullness, where the previous recording let them shake out on their own. But the huge step up from the debut isn’t so much about the melodies as it is how deftly they’re ushered along by the rhythm unit. The easy to-and-fro of the bluegrass-inflected cadences keeps the melody in its cradle, allowing it to rise to the top of the crest at a moment’s notice and always remaining within sight.
Opening track “February March” serves as the statement of transition from previous album to new. The abrupt motions and opaque melody are sandwiched between beguiling harmonic passages that serve the secondary benefit of transforming the view of that melody. It’s the only time on the album where the quartet stares into the rear view mirror.
On “Kept Close,” pianist JP Schlegelmilch switches to accordion for a blast of harmonic warmth so damn conducive to the calm, unassuming melodic groundwork laid down by bassist Phil Rowan. This, in turn, sets the table for the bigger, thematic statements of melody from saxophonist Adam Schneit. It’s a method applied with equal talents and equal success on the title-track.
And even when Schneit and drummer Max Goldman conspire to instigate some motion that would seem, at first blush, to forsake the notion of a smooth ride ahead for the melody, they shift the tempo into another gear and the melody flows right along with it, almost seeming to lead the way.
Trombonist Brian Drye sits in on “The Turtle Speaks,” and a tune that began with a peaceable ambiance lifts off suddenly into a celebratory tone. It’s a transition that burns bright with fun and enthusiasm and still hangs in the air even when “Pastorale” sees the quartet deciding to remain in a contemplative state throughout.
The album concludes with two upbeat tunes. First is “Two Painters” which enters the room with a rare instance of free improvisation, where dissonance and frenetic motion rule the day. The second and final album track is “Transmitter Park,” in which both melody and rhythm act in unison, and where focus and fun are merely complementary, interlocking parts.
A terrifically enjoyable recording.
Your album personnel: Adam Schneit (sax, clarinet), JP Schlegelmilch (accordion, piano), Phil Rowan (bass), Max Goldman (drums, melodica, tambourine) and guest: Brian Drye (trombone).
Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.
Released on NCM East.
Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.