New York, NY
On Spectrum, New York City-based saxophonist and composer David Crowell fuses strictly notated composition with jazz and ambient improvisation. A love for the music of composers Steve Reich, Philip Glass and John Zorn merges with his roots in jazz and improvised music to create a focused and original sound. Satisfying for its diversity but coherent in its message, Spectrum travels a vivid emotional landscape.
In “Point Reyes,” six alto saxophone parts bounce off each other with relentless abandon, creating a unique kind of counterpoint, both dense and beautiful. In “Nectar of Life”, the ensemble delivers a hard-hitting and virtuosic display of raw power. “Long Goodbye” and “Looking Deeply” are entirely improvised; sophisticated guitar loops and sensitive drumming create a space for reflection and meditation. In “Happy Nightmare,” a minimalist bass line anchors an ominous guitar and aggressive saxophone, while “Great Wide Open” explores the subtle evolution of a chord progression into free-form improvisation.
Each member of the David Crowell Ensemble contributes a distinctive artistic vision to the music on Spectrum. Crowell’s saxophone is in turn forceful, insistent, and lyrical and Mcmurray’s haunting guitar loops help define the sections of ambient improvisation. Jason Nazary is a versatile and dynamic presence on the drums while Chiavaro’s beautiful electric bass sound is steady throughout. Guest artist Red Wierenga adds a vintage Fender Rhodes to the textures of “Great Wide Open.”
David Crowell is a featured composer at the 2009 MATA Festival, a New York City forum for presenting the new music of emerging composers from around the world. In 2007, he was a composer-in-residence at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival. David’s percussion and ensemble works have been performed at numerous venues in the U.S. and Mexico.
A member (woodwinds) since 2007, David performs internationally with the Philip Glass Ensemble.
A member of Philip Glass' ensemble since 2007, some of Crowell's pieces on Spectrum have a decidedly minimalist bent. It's a little funny, because the disc opener, “Happy Nightmare,” plays with some of the rhythmic offsets and things like that, but still exists as a kind of modern jazz piece, balanced between improv and composition. The leader plays alto over churning bass and drums with Grey McMurray's guitar adding spacy textures around the edges, actually hewing somewhat close to an m-base feel like some of Vijay Iyer's cerebralist concepts. And it's pretty burning, I have to say. Things then take a left turn as “Point Reyes” develops into a pretty straight ahead minimalist workout, followed by “Long Goodbye,” a piece given over almost entirely to McMurray's ethereal guitar textures, augmented by some tapping on the drums by Nazary.
It all does make sense, though, because of Crowell's talents as a composer (not unlike fellow New Yorker John Zorn, he's also an active “classical” composer, writing works for things like string quartets and much larger ensembles with strings and winds etc.). For me, the more aggressive tracks stand out, perhaps as a respite to the repetitive motifs of the more classically oriented writing, and also notable is the improvisation as here and there members of the band break out of the stringent compositional constraints and really blow.
This is pretty cool. Crowell is really walking his own path in all the ways that it counts. And when the polyrhythms really kick in (“Nectar of Life Pt 2”!!) it makes one head spin. - Tom Chandler
Philip Glass saxophonist builds on minimalist rhythmic vamps, tightly boxed but tougher than chamber jazz. - Tom Hull
JAZZ AND BLUES
Playing modern classical music with the likes of Philip Glass has given saxophonist and composer David Crowell a unique perspective on jazz and improvisational music. Combining improvised jazz and classical structure, Crowell is supported on this album by Red Wierenga on electric piano, Grey McMurray on guitar, Mike Chiavaro on bass, and Jason Nazary on drums. The two part "Nectar of Life" was the highpoint of the album for me and the jazziest tracks on the album with Crowell's saxophone weaving through some explosive drumming and propulsive guitar and bass work. "Long Goodbye" and "Great Wide Open" draw on the leader's avant classical experience to create some interesting slower paced soundscapes for repetitive electric guitar and fender rhodes electric piano. "Looking Deeply" ends the album with a tight collective free improvisation with all the band members working together toward a common goal. I thought this was an interesting LP, I'm not really familiar with modern classical music, but Crowell's group was not overly obtuse or complicated. In fact, the music was quite colorful with the electric piano and electric guitar providing a number of different shadings for the music that kept it fresh and interesting. - Tim Niland
David Crowell est compositeur, saxophoniste et membre du Philip Glass Ensemble. A l’écoute de Point Reyes où il fait se superposer quatre pistes de saxophone, la filiation Reich/Glass est évidente. Excepté deux improvisations aux souffleries souterraines et inachevées (Long Goodbye, Looking Deeply), la répétition hante joyeusement ce très court Spectrum (30 minutes seulement). Ces répétitions ne sont jamais oppressantes ou stériles et les quatre minutes introductives de Great Wide Open ne tournent jamais à vide. Ici, fluidité et clarté sont de mise et jamais rien ne s’embourbe dans l’obscur et l’abscons. Quant à l’alto du leader, il évacue d’emblée toute tentation de virtuosité au profit d’un phrasé sec et sinueux, fureteur et…joyeusement obsessionnel. Chassez le naturel…
The unique combination of influences almost places Spectrum in post-rock territory. Crowell's singular vision transcends genre; no amount of hyphens can pin him down. READ MORE - Bryon Hayes