Jan 26 2015
Relay Recordings is the label of Chicago drummer Tim Daisy. It was originally a device for releasing his own music, but lately it’s begun to release albums by musicians that Daisy either collaborates with or has existing relationships. As a lynchpin of the Chicago free improv scene, naturally, these recordings represented Daisy’s hometown environs, but now, with his New Composer’s series, Relay Recordings has begun expanding its reach outside of Chicago and overseas to Europe.
Ultimately, though, Daisy sums up the label’s goals as such: “I try to release the music that I feel best represents what I’ve been up to recently both as a performer and composer,” adding, “But also to capture and document some of the new music being made in Chicago’s thriving avant-garde scene.”
With its focus on new and experimental music, Relay has already built up a nifty collection of exactly that. Much of the music on this label presents a challenge… this is not conventional stuff intended to imprint a catchy melody on the brain, nor is it likely to get the foot tapping. But it’s key to remember that challenging music can also be friendly and allow for any number of points of connectivity with the ear.
A lot of the music on this label is wildly expressive. The path taken isn’t always laid out with clear trail markers. Car chase scenes have their fair share of collisions. Genre has little to do with it except as established points of reference. Improvisation and in-the-moment creativity is key. Some of this improvisation takes the form of new ways of thinking and some of it echoes traditional forms of Jazz language. It’s also exciting and imaginative and fun.
Here are some of the albums I’m really taking to…
Tim Daisy – October Music Vol. 1: 7 Compositions for Duet
Drummer Tim Daisy invites other musicians from the Chicago scene to each perform a duet with him for the newest recording on Relay. Those musicians (James Falzone on clarinet, Dave Rempis on baritone sax, Katherine Young on bassoon, Marc Riordan on piano, Jen Clare Paulson on viola, Jason Adasiewicz on vibes and Josh Berman on cornet) each develop compelling dialogs with Daisy, and the action ranges from a track like “Roscoe Street,” which has Rempis burning it up on baritone sax while Daisy just keeps tossing matches to the flame, to a track like “Some Birds,” a duet with bassoonist Young, that possesses both the languorous presence and distant warmth of moonlight.
Released December 2014.
Russ Johnson Quartet – Meeting Point
A solid modern jazz set from the quartet of trumpeter Russ Johnson, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Tim Daisy. Perhaps the most appealing quality of Meeting Point is how Johnson gets his trumpet to mirror the bass clarinet’s fuzzy lyricism and wide-lens expressiveness. In addition to the harmonic peculiarities this invites, it’s just plain fun hearing them bounce ideas off one another. Nice mix of inside/out and free improvisation.
Released May 2014.
Bill MacKay – Chatham Park
Bill MacKay experiments with folk and rock mediums as much as jazz, and the ability to cross-pollinate between those genres shines through pretty strong on the strangely alluring Chatham Park. The challenge of speaking in several lexicons doesn’t prevent MacKay from developing a nice chatter, simultaneously informing both melody and tempo. This solo album has him on guitars and requinto. At times, it’s positively magnetic.
Released October 2014.
UPDATE: It appears that this album is no longer on the Relay site. You can check it out now on MacKay’s own Bandcamp page.
Vox Arcana – Soft Focus
Arguably, Soft Focus represents the true spirit of experimentalism that Relay is looking to represent. This trio of clarinetist James Falzone, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm (also on electronics) and drummer Tim Daisy (also on marimba) dives into free jazz, chamber, inside/out and a vague post-bop, and their dizzying run through these expressions makes them indistinguishable from one another and perpetually self-referential… as if they’d discovered a new form of language that had been in use all along and nobody had yet noticed. Personal favorite quality of Soft Focus are the shifts from thick dissonance to the oddly melodic.
Released in September 2012.
Tim Daisy Quartet – Streets In Time
The quartet of drummer Tim Daisy, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, trombonist Steve Swell and bassist Tim Hebert has a real personable way of delivering the bursts of chaos and dissonance and furtive kinetic energy of their improvisations amongst the firmly entrenched passages of modern post-bop and classic inside/out. It’s like watching a good friend go off on one of his wild tangents, growing increasingly unstable, then returning back to the original point as if that had been his predetermined path all along. Streets In Time is an album that finds time to bop and swing in between the big explosions.
Released February 2013.
Purchase these titles (and others) at Relay Recordings’ Bandcamp page.