Saturday, January 09, 2021

CD Review: What Happens In A Year - cérémonie/musique

What Happens In A Year

What Happens in A Year consists three improvisors, Josh Sinton (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet), Todd Neufeld (guitar) and Giacamo Merega (bass guitar). Their album cérémonie/musique is both their debut and the first release for Sinton's FiP (Form Is Possibility) label, which will document the reed player's various projects. 

Sinton/s work never stays in one place. The quartet Ideal Bread paid tribute to Steve Lacy, the Predicate Trio includes drummer Tom Rainey and cellist Christropher Hoffman, balancing compositions and free improv. He has also released a few albums of his solo improvisations, of which krasa is one to seek out, as his contra-bass clarinet performance often compares to a guitar noise recital, since he runs the instrument through a distortion pedal. Right around this time last year, I also saw him in a trio with fellow baritone saxophonist Dave Sewelson and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter. 

The seven tracks on cérémonie/musique come in complete contrast to albums like krasa. The group's approach to free improvisation moves at a more relaxed and thought pace. The first minute of "Algernon," for example, is fairly silent, save for the resonance of Neufeld's guitar strings that come when he taps the neck of the instrument. The trio never rises much in volume beyond that, preferring to explore the open space of the moment. "La Politique de Auteurs," which precedes "Algernon" and opens the album, almost sounds composed. Merega joins Sinton's baritone at what feels like a perfect entry point, after the saxophonist has opened up the sound. Neufeld waits before he comes in, almost echoing the saxophone when he does, but going off on a parallel line, playing in a way that often seems to respond to the waves of sound Sinton blows.

In some ways, the communication revealed on the opening track does not come across the same way throughout the album. The trio plays more in a loose manner, only occasionally building up into a three-part climax. With three melodic instruments and nothing to imply any sense of rhythm or tempo (free or otherwise), it opens the sound up to more possibilities, which can make it a challenge on where to focus attention. In some ways, Merega does some like an anchor, or an accompaniment to the ideas that Sinton and Neufeld present. Then in "Netherland," Sinton's bass clarinet starts out droning underneath, listening to what his partners play before rising up to add some slap-tonguing lines and grumblings. Neufeld can be heard singing along with his guitar here, while Merega walks on his instrument, not exactly in the traditional manner.

Several years ago in a review, I repurposed Whitney Balliett's old description of jazz, from "the sound of surprise" saying the music was also "the sound of trust." While we can - and should be - surprised by what an improvisor plays, there should also be trust involved on the part of the listener: trust that they know what they are doing as they take us on this personal journey with them. It might not seem easy at first, but it's worth the trip. What Happens In A Year plays that kind of music. 

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