Josh Sinton’s Ceremonial Music

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cérémonie/musique / SINTON-NEUFELD-MEREGA: La Politique des Auteurs. Algernon. Change of Scene. Sleepwalk Digest. Untethered. Netherland. Music From a Locker Room / What Happens in a Year: Josh Sinton, bar-sax/bs-cl; Todd Neufeld, el-gt; Giacomo Meraga, el-bs / FiP Recordings (no number)

Baritone saxist and bass clarinetist Josh Sinton presents here his trio which is called What Happens in a Year, so that’s not the name of the CD, just the group. But this is not your conventional jazz trio. As bassist Giacomo Merenga puts it:

I hear the freedom of making a chamber sound-object, something that breathes well in a small, closed space. More than a sculpture, I’m thinking of those early twentieth-century paintings that incorporate three-dimensional collages. Images that look naïve exactly because of their freedom, but they occupy their space so perfectly.

The music is exceptionally strange: slow and spacey, but far from soft, easy-listening jazz. Rather, it sounds like an avant-garde version of early Miles Davis, with slow, spaced-out notes, here played by Sinton over the bitonal underlay of an electric guitar and bass, neither of which are trying to break the sound barrier. It’s music that draws you inward; even when the tempo increases sand the playing becomes a bit edgier, it is the ambience created and not necessarily the notes played that grab you.

Because of the focus on ambience and mood, the titles given here really mean nothing to the listener. They probably mean something to the trio which composed them, but all you really need to focus on is the concentration on sound. In Algernon, the second piece given here, there is so little “actual music” that one wonders what their goal was, but again, if you just let yourself go and let it wash over you, it creates a spell that is hard to break. The closest I can come to describing it is the kind of music that NPR plays on its Echoes program. Weird, yet attractive in its own strange way.

With the music comprised of such relatively small, basic gestures, it is difficult to describe. My estimate is that all of it was improvised into being, with the trio members tossing out what they had to offer as things moved along. Thus these are not compositions in the strict sense of the word, but by generally moving slowly and not rushing things, Sinton and his trio were able to explore a different realm of music. All of it is harmonically unsettled, yet all of it is somehow peaceful. The best I can do to describe it is the say that it’s the opposite of musique concrete; it’s more like a fluid, phosphorescent blob that moves slowly, and occasionally quickly, across your basement floor. You have no idea what it is or where it comes from, but it seems essentially harmless despite some angular flashes of light within it.

My sole complaint of this album is that, as it goes on, the music becomes progressively slower and simpler until, by the time you reach Untethered, it almost does sound like ambient jazz. Of course, if your tolerance for this sort of thing is higher than mine, you’ll certainly enjoy the whole thing.

Well worth hearing, however. This is some pretty freaky stuff! The CD is scheduled for release on October 9.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

Follow me on Twitter (@artmusiclounge) or Facebook (as Monique Musique)

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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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