Label: Whirlwind Recordings, 2019
Personnel – Quinsin Nachoff: tenor and soprano saxophones; David Binney: alto and C-melody saxophones; Matt Mitchell: piano, Prophet 6; synth, harpsichord, harmonium; Kenny Wollesen: drums, percussion; Nate Wood: drums + guests.
Since the release of Flux (Mythology Records, 2016), it was obvious to me that New York-based saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff, a native of Toronto, was predestined to be a big name in modern jazz. To prove I wasn't wrong, we have the six fabulous originals that compose his new album, Path of Totality, inspired by the 2017 total eclipse of the sun.
The stellar bass-less group, known as Flux, includes the following core members: David Binney on alto and C-melody saxophones, Matt Mitchell on piano, synth, and harmonium, Kenny Wollesen on drums and Wollesonic percussion (his distinguished trademark), and the newly added Nate Wood on drums. Guest musicians join them on selected tracks, contributing to an adventure rich in spins and thrills.
The album is bookended by two jubilant numbers: the title track and “Orbital Resonances”. Both feature the pair of drummers expanding the usual quartet into a quintet. Their unobtrusive integration carries a modern feel through, with the horns creating conjointly until parting ways to embark on fluttering individual flights imbued in rhythmic color.
“Bounce”, a crisp and dynamic effort that includes Kimball theater organ (played by Jason Barnsley) in its final section, effectively assimilates electronics and drums, with Wood soloing up front. Written parts are cleverly placed between the improvisations, and you will even find musing suspensions populated by Mitchell’s intricate creativity. The pianist enjoys the limelight again on the John Cage-inspired “Toy Piano Meditation”, a serene exercise where he operates on several octaves delivering stunning dark voicings and nimble single-note phrases. Wollesen initially embellishes the piano playing with enigmatic cymbal scratches and opportune splashes while guest vibraphonist/marimbist Mark Duggan contributes addictive comping during the reedists’ explorations.
The noir singularity of “March Macabre” is infectious, tying in Wollesen’s odd percussion, the trombones of Ryan Keberle and Alan Ferber, the trumpets of Matt Holman and Dan Urness, the low reeds of Carl Maraghi, and Orlando Hernadez’s tap dancing. In terms of solos, Binney embraces darkness with labyrinthine effusion, Mitchell brings further emotional impression with the harmonium, and then Nachoff decides to search for light, escalating into the sky with an invigorating soprano spin. Inevitably, this tune has political connotations.
“Splatter”, which is probably my favorite piece on the album, features Matt Mitchell infusing as much mystery as atonal splendor on the harpsichord as well on synths. Working on top of Wollesen’s rhythmic syncopations and Mitchell’s geometric patterns, Binney and Nachoff show off what they can do, which is plenty. The former is an authentic master of precise phrasing while the latter excavates timbral possibilities in rapid-fire phrases that burn and delight.
This album abounds with appealing ideas, both textural and improvisational, as well as gripping tension, which is rarely abandoned. I got completely dragged into the narrative fluidity of a group showing a phenomenal facility in blazing undiscovered sonic paths. A wonderful point of entry for new listeners who want to testify Nachoff’s unbridled virtuosity.
01 – Path of Totality ► 04 - March Macabre ► 05 - Splatter