May 19 2016
Considering he often embraces the role of one-man band, the music of multi-instrumentalist Robert Stillman is bound to possess a perspective not easily deciphered. When he’s in the thick of a collaboration, as he in his work with the Future Archaic Players project, the encompassing sound is one recognizable as a Stillman type of expressionism, but it’s wildly effusive and an open book. But the introspective nature of a solo act, where meanings are partially obscured by the self-engrossed, contemplative environment it springs from, that’s a tougher nut to crack, and meanings always remain partially obscured, just out reach.
It’s the kind of thing that keeps an ear glued in place, hanging on every note.
And it’s a quality that holds true on his newest, Rainbow, a dedication to his family. And just as there’s nothing conventional about his music, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Stillman expands the definition of “family” to include the City of Kent where he resides and the station wagon that takes him to and from his family, to and from his city, back and forth through life. Inevitably, memories are going to be swept up in the act of creativity… in some instances, inform them, and in more extreme scenarios, become an omnipresent compulsion. Rainbow is about Stillman’s family, present and passed, organic, mechanic and conceptual, and his use of instruments old and modern, those born of nature and those crafted from science all converge to present a multifaceted work of music, as varied and rich and sublime and flawed as life.
There’s an abiding mournful tone to title-track “Rainbow,” though its chattering percussion and brisk tempo imply an action not suited for contemplation. It’s a nice dichotomy, and Stillman uses it to great effect at several powerful moments on the recording. “Ruthie in May” exists in a state between urgent tempos and contented sighs, of percussion and keyboards murmuring below the surface while the sunlight of woodwinds shines gentle and bright in twisting melodic patterns. “As He Walked Into the Field” and “Warren is a Great Car” are upbeat and cheerful, but the slow pulse of the first and the repetitive layering of the second build up to a serious gravity not so easily smiled away. And the vocal interlude “Field With Pops” ambiguously suggests both potent melancholia and lighthearted contentment. On the other hand, the album finale of “Epilogue” leaves no doubt.
A terribly engrossing album, and the fascinating discography of Robert Stillman grows by yet one more.
Your album personnel: Robert Stillman (woodwinds, pianos, drums, and electronic sound).
Released on Orindal Records.
Listen to other album tracks on the label’s Soundcloud page.
Jazz from East Kent, England scene.
And be sure to check out one of Stillman’s non-solo recordings, Station Wagon Interior, a Jeff Fahey tribute that includes contributions by saxophonist Jeremy Udden, trumpeter Kenny Warren, tubist Ben Stapp and trombonist Dave Noyes.
Read more on this site (LINK).