New You (Singlespeed; 2012)
Jordan Glenn (drums)
Jacob Zimmerman (sax)
Michael Coleman (fender rhodes)
Matt Nelson (sax)
The American west coast continues to bubble with urgency, at least on the improvised front, so we turn to Oakland, CA and the dynamic talents of a new quartet, Arts & Sciences. On their second release, New You, released on Aram Shelton's Singlespeed Music (he also plays on one track), this quartet show that they have a lot of improvisational ideas that can fight with the best of the New York and Chicago scenes.
"Baby Boner" slowly rises with delicately paced improvised notes, then folds into a high octane, pulse-pounding collision of sound. It felt like a segment of Miles Davis' Agharta. Dueling tenor and alto saxophones cause a cacophony in the middle section which sound beautiful smashed against Coleman's keys and Glenn's unyielding kit. The quartet later come down gently in a psychedelic interlude of squeals on the rhodes and tiny percussion tones that give off a Steve Reich ambiance.
The band site Tim Berne is an influence. It can be heard and felt in throughout but that's just the building blocks. Nelson and Zimmerman take that influence and turn it into their own fun, free floating nihilistic structure. "Scram" illustrates this with a number of challenging expositions and exchanges between the horn section and clashing notes from Coleman and Glenn. The rhythm is easy to pick up but you'll probably be more entranced by how much fun they're having with this piece...brilliant!
"Scientology" is wonderful ensemble piece featuring Aram Shelton on clarinet, Rob Ewing (trombone), Theo Padouvas (trumpet) and Andrew Conklin (guitar). It's almost an improvised balled with echoes of Joe Zawinul sprinkled about. Pleasant yet strikingly bold. It's an expansive piece that allows the musicians a lot of freedom while maintaining a real clear direction.
Arts & Sciences did a brief tour last month; hopefully they'll be able to add some more dates soon. They are band that is worth every effort to see. New You not is a signal that more beautiful sounds keep coming from the west--its also an album deserving of much wider attention here and abroad. Highly Recommended!