Apr 14 2012
Scott Dubois – “Landscape Scripture”
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.
May 3 2018
Scott DuBois makes a pretty good argument for savoring the cold seasons a little while longer
In 2015 and now again at the very end of 2017, Scott DuBois released albums inspired by the seasons. Considering his 2012 release Landscape Scripture focused on Claude Monet’s haystacks paintings, it was a natural transition. Looking back upon it now, perhaps that was where the guitarist began it all. Winter and then Autumn were the first stages of the cycle reinterpreted through DuBois’ sound in vision.
We are at that despairing stage of the seasons now, where we’ve persevered through the worst winter had to throw at us, but the nagging impatience for warmer days makes the lingering effects of cold weather nearly intolerable. DuBois gives us reason to keep celebrating the colder seasons. Preferably inside.
2015’s Winter Light is a day in the life of the bleakest season. It begins, as we all do, at first light, and then gradually cycles through the stages of the day until nightfall and, finally, sleep. The opening piece “First Light Tundra” beautifully captures the expressive skies and icy volatility of a winter morning. It’s driven by the potent combination of sunrise serenity and the massive presence of snow and ice and frozen winds just waiting on the other side of the window to pierce your soul the moment you step outside. And really, from that point, the music alternates shades of the opening’s tranquility and intensity. “Night Tundra” gives a sense of the oppressive collapse of wintertime darkness upon the earth, but also the insight that its enfolding embrace possesses a certain comfort when experienced within reach of a fireplace and warm lights and loved ones. The soothing drone of “Afternoon Ice Fog” is the eye of the storm, those fleeting hours when the beauty of winter eclipses its talent for inflicting pain. “Evening Blizzard” is the reminder of what awaits outside the protective shell of the eye of the storm.
Your album personnel: Scott DuBois (guitar), Gebhard Ullmann (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Thomas Morgan (bass) and Kresten Osgood (drums).
Released in 2015 on ACT Music.
Available at: Amazon
DuBois’ treatment of the autumnal season is more expansive than that of winter. Some of this approach reflects the difference between the nuance of Winter and the brilliant bursts of autumnal colors. And, perhaps, the guitarist was simply looking to expand the tonal palette of his ensemble. DuBois adds a string quartet plus and a woodwind trio to the same quartet that gave voice to the winter season. The result is a focus on change. There’s the change of colors in the trees and the merciful relief from Summer’s debilitating heat, and how this brings about a sense of tranquility. But autumnal change is also the massive upheaval of life into the hibernation of Winter. So the great fluttering of wings on “Early November Bird Formations” and the explosion of brilliant colors on “Autumn Aurora Borealis” and “Late October Changing Leaves” and the eerie calm of “Late September Dusk Walk” shift with great suddenness between states of serenity and volatility. And regardless of which state holds at any one time, there’s an undercurrent of tension, as if the world were nervously awaiting the final change to manifest, and the inevitable descent into the cold months of winter.
Your album personnel: Scott DuBois (guitar), Gebhard Ullmann (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Thomas Morgan (bass), Kresten Osgood (drums), Eva León, Conway Kuo (violins), William Frampton (viola), Sarah Rommel (cello), Erin Lesser (flute), BJ Karpen (oboe), Elisabeth Stimpert (clarinet) and Michael Harley (bassoon).
Released in 2017 on ACT Music.
Available at: Amazon
By davesumner • Jazz Recommendations - 2015 Releases, Jazz Recommendations - 2017 releases • 0 • Tags: ACT Music, Scott Dubois