Alchemy Sound Project - Adventures in Time and Space

Label: Artists Recording Collective, 2018

Personnel – Erica Lindsay: tenor saxophone; Samantha Boshnack: trumpet, flugelhorn; Salim Washington: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; flute; Michael Spearman: trombone; Sumi Tonooka: piano; David Arend: double bass; Johnathan Blake: drums, percussion.

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Originally a quintet, Alchemy Sound Project was expanded into a septet for their second outing, Adventures in Time and Space, which features six sonic adventures composed by five of its members.

Throughout the album, we spot pitch-perfect horn arrangements appealingly executed by saxophonist Erica Lindsay, trumpeter Samantha Boshnack, multi-reedist and woodwind player Salim Washington, and their new frontline collaborator: trombonist Michael Spearman. The rhythm section comprises Sumi Tonooka on piano, David Arend on bass and the second novelty in the personnel, the inventive Johnathan Blake on drums. The inaugural five-piece ensemble first recorded in 2016, years after the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, a Columbia University program, have selected them to be part of their agenda and explore the challenges of writing for the symphony orchestra.

Lindsay’s “Adventures in Time and Space” carries a sort of 70’s mood between its lines, bringing the music of bassist Graham Collier to mind. A mighty bass clarinet is dominative on an introductory horn-driven section arranged with melodic gusto. This happens before a 4/4 locomotion is set in motion by the fabulous rhythm gurus Arend and Blake. The improvisations, placed atop, are from Tonooka, whose combination of single-note phrases and rich voicings are supported by tardy horn fills, a brief speech by Arend before an intermediate collective passage takes us to Washington, who, switching to tenor saxophone, operates nimbly on top of a joyful swinging rhythm.

Lindsay didn’t improvise on his own tune, but conveyed her explorative and expansive vision on Arend’s 5/4-metered “Ankh”. The piece, generous in offering harmonic modulations, kicks off with a symbiotic dance between flute and trumpet melodies. Whereas Washington’s flute solo stands in the middle of a profound dream and the restless reality, the charming pianism of Tonooko and the gallant, husky arco work from Arend complete the improvisational rounds with prodigious outputs.

The horn section keeps functioning in absolute concordance on Boshnack’s “Song of the Whistle Wing”, where the freedom of the piano/bass/drums interplay gets emphatically out of the convention. A blatantly written passage rushes toward Lindsay’s flaming trills, which get rhythmic responses from the pianist’s wise chordal comping. Then, it's Blake who spreads exotic perfumes with his full-fledged snare-driven rhythm, supporting Boshnack’s improv with dramatically epic tones.

Washington's 4/4 Ellingtonian ballad “Odysseus Leaves Circe” nods to tradition, shifting tempos along the way and presenting a fluid dialogue between acoustic bass and bass clarinet, only with some occasional percussive rattles underneath.

Radiant in their own way is Tonooka's lyric “Transition Waltz”, but also Lindsay’s “Jeff’s Joy”, which stimulates our metrical perception through a spirited groove in seven. After the composer’s solo, we can hear Blake crafting nice and tense rhythmic figures through opportune transition fills and thinly veiled embellishments.

This eclectic ensemble possesses the required organic vitality and soulful grit to succeed, offering a fairly accessible set with plenty of creative ideas. Their musical aesthetics, favoring the spiritual side, transmits a beneficial energy that soars high above the subliminal.

        Grade  B+

       Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Adventures in Time and Space ► 02 - Ankh ► 03 - Song of the Whistle Wing