Saxophonist and flutist Anna Webber composed this album in isolation from her active Brooklyn life, balancing introspective material with complex rhythms and dissonant melodic sections performed by the outstanding work of John Hollenbeck (drums) and Matt Mitchell (piano).
Webber, Anna (w/ Matt Mitchell / John Hollenbeck)
Released in: USA
"The music for the album was written on Bowen Island in British Columbia, where Webber enjoyed the opportunity to isolate herself from the busy bustle of her home in Brooklyn and allow the music to develop organically. The peaceful seclusion is evident in many of the tracks, "Washington" being a beautiful instance of what such opportunities can lead to. The beautiful colors and textures were inspired by the far off mountains of Washington state; anyone familiar with the pacific northwest can hear the picturesque landscape being evoked. Likewise "1994" suggests a calm solitude with its subdued tempo and energy and its, at times, intense use of space.
The alternation of dense and open voicings in the piano accompaniment suggest the beautiful struggle of removing oneself from contemporary life, as does Webber's sometimes lyrical, sometimes dissonant melodies. Conversely, Webber's distinctively percussive and rhythmic compositional and playing style are very much evident throughoutthe album. A highlight among these compositions is "I Don't Want To Be Happy." With a driving, complex rhythm at the outset leading into a much freer section with wonderful interplay, this song is less obviously connected to the quietude of an island in the pacific ocean. Yet the reality of living with oneself, and only oneself, is not always as charming as a quaint island overlooking a beautiful ocean view. "Simplify, Simplify" is far from simple; the incessant rhythm suggests the ever present struggle of being honest with oneself in such a situation. Aside from these philosophical considerations, these songs groove and have compelling melodies, rhythms and forms."-Paul Nasar
"If things aren't just right, listening to complicated music can be like doing your taxes. There has to be chemistry, there has to be a narrative, and-even though you don't know what's coming next-the music's got to be on. The players have to be free to speak in a new language; often one divorced from the world of spang-a-lang and rhythm changes. This is the case on Anna Webber's new recording, Simple. Don't let the title fool you! Ms. Webber, a saxophonist, flutist and native of British Columbia, Canada, now residing in Brooklyn, is evidently quite blessed with a wry sense of humor. Webber's music, like Anthony Braxton's, is also informed by humor and a sense of the absurd, which makes it all the more inviting despite its cerebral character.
"Carnophobia" has a melody that initially sounds like random notes: as if someone dropped pebbles on a keyboard. Webber and pianist Matt Mitchell inject the requisite harmonic content into this pointillistic mass of craziness; but they do so gradually, letting the piece develop, keeping the listener on edge. Here, John Hollenbeck's phenomenal percussive play gives the tune an improbably loose and funky edge. "Emoticon" is an in-depth, yet light-hearted, exploration of dynamics, timbre, and repetition that really puts Hollenbeck to the test. Webber's lush flute sound and puckish humor come to the fore on the relentlessly propulsive "Simplify Simplify." You can sing along with the piece by simply uttering the song's title in a rhythmic fashion. "I Don't Want To Be Happy" is a dark and stormy tantrum that rides on the back of Mitchell's hellfire piano. Throughout these pieces there are free improv sections reminiscent of Hollenbeck's work with Satoko Fujii and Natsuki Tamura in the similarly-configured Junk Box trio.
This trio is equally adept at creating spacious, slowly unfolding soundscapes that tread a thin line between jazz balladry and contemporary classical music. Three of the album's seven pieces, "Zigzag," "1994," and "Washington" utilize space and long tones in a way that recalls some of Morton Feldman's compositions. "Washington" is the darkest and most dissonant of the three, though Webber throws in a rhapsodic, whisper-quiet flute solo just to keep you on your toes. "1994" coalesces into an angular jazz piece featuring Mitchell's probing improv. "Zigzag" is more gauzy and hazy, with subtle uncredited harmonium lurking in the background. The entirety of Simple is suffused with warm, human soulfulness, despite the devilish complexity of Webber's compositions.
Webber, Mitchell, and Hollenbeck perform this music with a rare delicacy, inviting the listener to lean in, closer, as they fuse modern jazz, free improvisation, and contemporary classical compositional techniques into a seamless whole. Simple is a beautifully varied and wonderfully executed work."-Dave Wayne, All About Jazz
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Catalog ID: Skirl 027
Squidco Product Code: 19812
Packaging: Skirl Digipack
Recorded at the Loove in Brooklyn, New York in August 2013 by Andrew Felluss.
Anna Webber-tenor saxophone, flute
John Hollenbeck-drums, percussion
Matt Mitchell-piano, prepared piano
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1. Carnophobia 9:58
2. Emoticon 7:40
3. 1994 10:45
4. Simplify Simplify 7:17
5. Washington 7:33
6. I Don't Want to Be Happy 5:02
7. Zigzag 7:28