The Return of Alchemy Sound Project

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ADVENTURES IN TIME AND SPACE / LINDSAY: Adventures in Time and Space. Jeff’s Joy. AREND: Ankh. BOSHNACK: Song of the Whistle Wing. WASHINGTON: Odysseus Leaves Circe. TONOOKA: Transition Waltz (for Matt) / Alchemy Sound Project: Samantha Boshnack, tpt/fl-hn; Erica Lindsay, t-sax; Michael Spearman, tb; Salim Washington, t-sax/fl/bs-cl; Sumi Tonooka, pn; David Arend, bs; Jonathan Blake, dm/perc / Artists Recording Collective 2857

The Alchemy Sound Project, whose work I gave a rave review to in my review of their first album, return here with a new disc of equally beautiful (in the best sense of the word) and innovative material. The first piece on the album, Erica Lindsay’s Adventures in Time and Space, manages to combine the feel of one of Bill Evans’ more innovative compositions with a bit of Miles Davis, is set in an irregular meter yet, as is usual for this band, is more through-composed with improvised solos than the more spontaneous style of Davis’ late-1960s bands. I was particularly impressed by the richness of the scoring for the trumpet (mostly in its mid-range), trombone and saxophone; at 4:45 into the piece, the tempo increases as Salim Washington takes an excellent tenor solo and drummer Jonathan Blake ups the voltage, before a sudden decelerando at the finish.

David Arend’s Ankh is up next, a sort of jazz waltz featuring flute and trumpet playing the discursive melody in the beginning. This eventually leads to a mellow trombone passage with the saxes filling in the harmony, later with the flute returning, after which Washington plays a flute solo. I should add that, for all their innovations in rhythm and melody, Alchemy Sound Project’s music is for the most part tonal or at least modal; this piece tends towards the latter, primarily using two closely related modes or chords as its basis. An excellent piano solo by Sumi Tonooka follows, backed by bass and drums, before Arend plays a wonderful arco bass solo.

Samantha Boshnack’s Song of the Whistle Wing has a much denser and more complex lead line, using close harmonies in her scoring of the saxophone lead with trombone and low trumpet filling in the chords. The rhythm of this piece, once it begins, has a sort of calypso feel to it. After a piano solo, the bass begins what turns out to be a rather complex passage that develops the theme; the tempo slowly increases, following which Erica Lindsay plays a rather busy and complex tenor solo. After a pause, the tempo relaxes and Arend plays a contrasting theme on bowed bass, followed by the ensemble with a nice trumpet solo by Boshnack.

This is followed by the rather forlorn-sounding Odysseus Leaves Circe, which begins as a jazz ballad with interesting harmonic overtones before moving in and out of faster passages. Washington has a bass clarinet solo on this one, backed only by Arend’s bass, a wonderful improvised dialogue. It closes on a relaxed chord. Tonooka’s Transition Waltz (for Matt) begins with the composer on solo piano, joined by flute, bass, drums and trombone for the elusive theme. Eventually we leave the waltz tempo for another irregular meter, including an ensemble break played polyphonically by the horns. The music then becomes quite complex rhythmically and harmonically as the soloists take their turns. It’s quite a musical trip!

The melodic and rhythmic complexity continue in the final track, Lindsay’s Jeff’s Joy, a remarkable piece that take all of your powers of concentration to hear the many and varied things going on in it. It’s a wonderful close to a fascinating album that begins in a somewhat “normal” jazz atmosphere yet slowly takes you into the outer limits.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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Read my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed guide to the intersection of classical music and jazz

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