Orbit titles the intersection of bassist/composer Scott Worthington and Italian photographer Renato D’Agostin. Worthington’s minimal approach to sound, like D’Agostin’s to image, reveals the hidden complexities of interaction between bodies and the contexts of their transit. With an atmosphere that recalls the self-refractions of Stephan Micus, “A Time That Is Also A Place” fleshes out the flute of Rachel Beetz like vanes to a feather’s shaft, funneling into a quill hungry for a universal inkwell. Long tones beget longer drones to form a space in which the body retreats into itself. As multi-phonic light cradles shadows with aged hands, drawing static from its slumber into the foreground, the monochromatic heart of reality beats in the slowest of motions, as if to mark the passage of time beyond grasp of all measure. The effect is such that when the ambient “Interlude” opens its eyes against the sunlight of a thousand sun, we understand intimately the imperfection of the soul against a cosmos dripping with unity.
If we began with a circle, then “A Flame That Could Go Out” is another linking to it, resonating in a moan for all matter. In this bass-heavy flame, one encounters not a single flicker, but a steady flow of suicidal oxygen quietly accepting its fate. Each respiration is a word without speech, a simulacrum of mortality restored like an ancient instrument cleared of its corrosion. This leaves only the tracery of experience to communicate who we once were in the music of who we can never be again.
That all of this feels so downright terrestrial is due in part to the captivation of D’Agostin’s images, which grace the album’s accompanying book with nomadic coherence. Their high contrast reveals a mutual contradiction of flesh and spirit, even as it fortifies the connective tissue of art between them. In this sense, the dialogue here is not between individuals but within them, steering the self into waters of deeper self until only horizon remains.
(For ordering information, check out the IIKKI imprint here.)
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines “flow” as a oneness of performer and process, and on V electric bassist Uros Spasojevic and pianist Bojan Marjanovic achieve precisely that. That said, the Serbian duo doesn’t so much combine forces as close the gap between them, like two hands from different religious traditions coming together in a single prayer.
Spasojevic is unique for drawing out the bass’ corporeal qualities. In his solo “North,” he opens the curtain in a gesture so holistic that it seems to inhale and exhale simultaneously. With a tone that’s rounded yet which pierces the heart, he drops higher notes into a blurry pond, every ripple like a newborn song in search of words. The piano’s entrance in “Senok” reveals, with quiet assurance, an underlying Ketil Bjørnstad influence. Yet while the Norwegian pianist-composer’s cinematic lyricism is paralleled, it’s filtered through a color scheme all its own. Such an association suggests an ECM connection, and by no coincidence, as Spasojevic—who writes all the music here—cites the label as a staple of his listening diet. Such respect is further enhanced by the fact that the album was mixed and mastered under the attentive hand of Jan Erik Kongshaug at Oslo’s famed Rainbow Studio, and by the familiar thematic fragment of “Water,” which seems to have been lifted sanctimoniously from Kenny Wheeler’s “Nicolette.”
The sonic footprint of Vis as non-invasive as it is expansive. In “Guide” and “Change,” it reaches deepest layers of emotional transference, rendering hidden dreams with the pigment of open realities. “Hope” is a prelude to the title track, of which a pianistic lattice offers its plot to Spasojevic’s melodic fruit. As Marjanovic heightens his freedom of expression in spiraling architectures, he uncovers more than the album’s mission statement, but a land without borders. “End of the hill” thus surveys the album’s most abstract territories, making use of electronic augmentations and spontaneous impulses, while “Sea” closes the circle with another lone journey, of which every step brings us farther from a destination, letting us float instead across a misty sea, thankful for the beauty of unknowing.
Protean Labyrinth is a tunnel burrowing into the linguistic soil from which we all sprout. It’s a sensation best expressed in a handful of tracks bearing the title “Push.” Of these, “Push Four” is the most emblematic, a spontaneous ramble, which, like the album as a whole, achieves coherence by virtue of its passage through time—pushing indeed against the temptation of meaning in favor of instinctive understanding. At the center of this aphasia is vocalist Kyoko Kitamura, who doesn’t so much lead the band as strike it like flint on rock. Tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Dayeon Seok are chemically bound to her at every moment, tasting the air of possibility like a three-pronged tongue.
Despite the guiding scores from which the music is drawn, the quartet undermines any purchase of exposition. What starts as a bright groove one moment might morph into throaty sinews of darkness the next. That such changes occur without force or hierarchical touch is testament to these musicians’ willingness to smash their compass the moment it’s calibrated. The finest turns are “Deadbolt” and “No Exit,” both masterful containments of wildness. Each is a glass house filled with vocal stones—not thrown but handled so much that they’ve become rounded with care.
Kitamura’s voice, brimming with fierce humility, is central to these goings on. In “Lure,” each of her utterances is an Ouroboros of potential meaning sacrificed on the altar of its own becoming and in “Slide” she breaks out the vocal champagne, bubbling and frothing her way through a subterranean mythos. This is the underside of language, a sonic entity that grows and moves of its own accord.
(This review, in its original form, appeared in the December 2018 issue of The New York City Jazz Record, a full PDF of which is available here.)
I recently attended a performance in celebration of No World Between Us, the debut album by pianist and vocalist Noa Fort, sister of ECM recording artist Anat Fort. Noa’s songwriting is insightful and touching, and in a live setting reached new heights of expression. Click the cover to read my thoughts on the album, and the live photo below that to read my review of the CD release concert.