Apr 14 2012
This is an album of massive scope. It is a hornets nest of mixed metaphors. There are so many ways to paint the air rushes and cross currents of this album, that even taking a more holistic approach to sizing this album up still wouldn’t do it justice. And taking into consideration that Scott Dubois‘ inspiration for Landscape Scripture was the Impressionist Movement, perhaps the inability to frame this album in concrete terms is proof of the recording’s success.
But let’s try anyway…
Your album personnel: Scott DuBois (guitar), Gebhard Ullmann (tenor sax & bass clarinet), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Kresten Osgood (drums).
The sources of influence are many. Naturally, there’s some jazz in here, of both Nordic and African traits. There’s some material that can be traced to a rock lineage. There are moments of folk music, especially that variety of Old Folk Music… the kind that would be played fireside back when the Grimm’s were jotting down outlines for fairy tales. Classical music informs the compositions; free jazz emanates from the solos. These are some of the album’s facets.
Another of the album’s facets, a prominent one, is viewed best through the solos. Dubois and Ullmann both bring the heat on their respective instruments. Dubois’ solos take a shape of upward motion, building up to the sky. Ullman’s solos, both on tenor sax and bass clarinet, maintain the precise fury of a welder creating bonds through intense pressure and heat. Taken together, as they sometimes are throughout the album, it gives the sensation of watching a film about the building of skyscrapers viewed in time lapse.
The flight & return of soloing instruments casts a wide net of entertainment. On tracks like “Prairie Suite” and “Lake Shore Suite,” just when it seems as if guitar or sax has gone exploring too far distant, they return, and sometimes to a home base that greets them with a different sound than that which sent them off. The interactions during those reunions create a wonderful sense of Everything Old Is New Again.
Second track “Prairie Suite” epitomizes what a slippery album this is to try and nail down with a succinct description. It opens with a brilliant drum and bass combo; drum a comforting, yet frenzied patter, and bass a steady gallop that just sings with lyricism (I’m addicted to Morgan’s bass section in this song). Guitar enters with a dreamy casualness, echoes of Steve Tibbetts. Then sax steps up with plaintive howls and guttural growls, and now we’re in Pharoah Sanders on Impulse territory. But I’m only giving facets of this track. There is a lot going on here, yet it has a simplicity that makes it so easy to listen to (not to mention, a joy). Dubois takes over the song halfway through with a series of blistering solos, joined by Ullmann on bass clarinet. Approaching the finale, the fire is tamped down with a folk tune cheerfulness on guitar, though the bass clarinet keeps going all Baba Yaga in the background.
Four of the tracks represent the haystacks in all four seasons. It begins with “Spring Haystacks,” a slow burn, like the sun rising and the drip of melting snow. “Summer Haystacks” is a joyous tune, fluttering sax, polyrhythms of many dancing feet, and the gentle strum of guitar like warm sunshine. Osgood is solid throughout the recording, but it’s on “Summer Haystacks” that he really shines through.
“Autumn Haystacks” is another standout track. It drifts in like the tides; sax, a seagull calling out from behind a wall of fog. If Lou Reed ever had an inclination to take Velvet Underground into jazz territory, this is some of what it would’ve sounded like. Ambient but with a dark threatening undercurrent, a stoned haze of atmosphere, but with a street wisdom gained the hard way. Intensity, delivered without ever rearing its head. Just the insinuation of danger. Powerful stuff.
The album ends with “Winter Haystacks,” a slow determined sway like the return of snow drifts and cold dark nights. The four “Haystacks” compositions don’t stray too far from one another. Summer has a bit more life than the other three, but they all are strongly connected in tone and impact. The four seasons may be as different from one another as anything can be, but Dubois instills in his four “seasons” an abounding subtlety that makes differentiation a bit more problematic.
It’s quite an astounding album. Dubois tapped into a vein of epic artistic expression and drew out a recording of expansive breadth and vision.
Released on the Sunnyside Records label. Jazz from NYC.
You can stream the entire album (and purchase it) on the label’s Bandcamp page. Remember, bandcamp allows you to purchase in a number of different file formats, including lossless, at no additional charge.