Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thom Gossage: In Other Words

Thom Gossage (drums)
In Other Words (Songlines Recordings; 2011)
Frank Lozano (sax)
Remi Bolduc (sax)
Steve Raegele (guitar)
Miles Perkin (bass)

I really didn't know of Thom Gossage until I received this CD a few weeks ago. But I have to say, from the moment I heard the opening chords I was pretty hooked.

Gossage, a Montreal native, has been on the scene for over a decade. He has managed to balance his improvising aesthetics in both the areas of music and dance. While working in close association with free form dance ensembles he also takes that experimental edge into his musical collaborations. In Other Words is his 5th release with his ensemble, Other Voices. Encompassing a quartet that he has worked with in various forms over the last few years, In Other Words is a really engaging work from a drummer with many hats and thoughts.

The music on In Other Words originated out Gossage's work with the arts (specifically choreographer Isabelle Van Grimede) instead of music. Therefore this album becomes a real travelogue of ideas.

Opening with the title track, that has an investigative and almost avant garde country twang, Gossage let's the listener know this will not be your ordinary journey into improvised music. "In Other Words" revolves around multiple themes and competing chord changes, all making for an intense but highly enjoyable listen. Gossage has a style that reminds me of Andrew Cyrille or Gerry Hemingway, in the manner which he can switch from complex to simply calming structures without breaks.

The contribution of each member in Other Voices cannot be understated. Steve Raegele's work is on par with that of Marc Ribot. Both Remi Bolduc and Frank Lozano contribute stellar, visceral performances as evident on "Counter Counter Clockwise"--a virtual rollercoaster of alliteration. "Counter Counter Clockwise" encompasses all the aforementioned thoughts of Gossage's composing ability. The rollercoaster switches to a gentle tone poem with sax, electronics and drums creating a haunting but beautiful soundtrack.

"Your Number(S)" is one of my favourite pieces. For me there is a sense of play hidden inside the improvisational aspects on display here. Miles Perkins has a rich but minimal quality that you gravitate to throughout the entirety of In Other Words, but here somehow I was drawn to what was going on just underneath the explorations by rest of group. Perkins reminds me of Drew Gress, who also creates a whole different universe outside of his bandmates that pulls you in but keeps you within the context of the original piece (Drew Gress has also performed with Thom's group). The closing moments of the piece are left to Raegele and Gossage to experiment and work of each other. 

Staying with the "arts" theme, the album closes with appropriately with an actually poem, "Tom Arthurs Dinner", with vocals from critically acclaimed British trumpeter, Tom Arthurs. Arthurs vocals are balanced by a heavy tone of dark atmospherics that give the piece a kind demented, tormented beat-generation quality.

In Other Words is a deep, thoughtful and complex mixture of structures from both theater and improvised music. While both have a lot in common it is quite often difficult for many musicians to meld the two together into a work that is cohesive and tangible. Thom Gossage has done that perfectly. This session feels like a chamber ensemble that decided to throw away the notes and perform from the heart not the page. This is a journey that is emotionally effective on your stereo as it would on the stage. A real pleasure of a discovery.

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