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
• Show Bio for Anna Webber
"Reedist Anna Webber, a Brooklynite by way of British Columbia, is one of the most exciting new arrivals on the New York avant-garde jazz scene in the past couple years. Her second album, SIMPLE, demonstrates the inextricable link between her improvising and her compositions; her detail-rich writing recalls the work of elders as disparate as Tim Berne and Henry Threadgill, and her busy motion evokes a fizzy sort of exhilaration.-Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
Anna Webber is an integral part of a new wave of the Brooklyn avant-garde jazz scene. A saxophonist and flutist who strives for the unexpected, she has furthermore consistently proven herself to be a unique and forward-thinking composer with releases such as 2014's SIMPLE (Skirl Records) and 2013's Percussive Mechanics. Binary, the follow-up to SIMPLE which features bandmates John Hollenbeck and Matt Mitchell, further establishes Webber as a compelling improvisor and composer."-Anna Webber Website (http://www.annakristinwebber.com/index2.html)
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• Show Bio for John Hollenbeck
"John Hollenbeck is a composer of music uncategorizable beyond the fact of being always identifiably his. A conceptualist able to translate the traditions of jazz and new music into a fresh, eclectic, forward-looking language of his own invention, intellectually rewarding yet ever accessibly vibrant. A drummer and percussionist possessed of a playful versatility and a virtuosic wit. Most of all, a musical thinker - whether putting pen to paper or conjuring spontaneous sound - allergic to repetition, forever seeking to surprise himself and his audiences. [...]
Hollenbeck received degrees in percussion and jazz composition from the Eastman School of Music before moving to New York City in the early 1990s. He was profoundly shaped by the mentorship of two hugely influential artists: trombonist/arranger/composer Bob Brookmeyer and composer/choreographer Meredith Monk. His relationship with Brookmeyer reached back to the age of 14, when he attended the SUNY Binghamton Summer Jazz Workshop, and continued at Eastman, through NEA-funded composition study, and finally on the bandstand with Brookmeyer's New Art Orchestra and in the studio with Brookmeyer and trumpet great Kenny Wheeler. For Monk, Hollenbeck composed and performed the percussion scores for five of her works: "Magic Frequencies," "Mercy," "The Impermanence Project," "Songs of Ascension" and "On Behalf of Nature."
Hollenbeck's awards and honors include four Grammy nominations; the 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, the 2010 ASCAP Jazz Vanguard Award and a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship; winning the Jazz Composers Alliance Composition Contest in 1995 and 2002; Meet the Composer's Grants in 1995 and 2001; and a Rising Star Arranger win in the 2012 and 2013 DownBeat Critics' Polls as well as in 2011 for the JHLE as Rising Star Big Band. John was a professor of Jazz Drums and Improvisation at the Jazz Institute Berlin from 2005-2016 and in 2015 joined the faculty of McGill University's Schulich School of Music."-John Hollenbeck Website (http://johnhollenbeck.com/about/biography/)
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• Show Bio for Matt Mitchell
"Matt Mitchell is a pianist and composer interested in the intersections of various strains of acoustic, electric, composed, and improvised new music. He currently composes for and leads several ensembles featuring many of the current foremost musicians and improvisers, including Tim Berne, Kim Cass, Caroline Davis, Kate Gentile, Ben Gerstein, Sylvaine Hélary, Jon Irabagon, Travis Laplante, Ava Mendoza, Miles Okazaki, Ches Smith, Chris Speed, Tyshawn Sorey, Chris Tordini, Anna Webber, Dan Weiss, and Katie Young.
He is an anchor member of several significant creative music ensembles which integrate composed and improvised music, including Tim Berne's Snakeoil, the Dave Douglas Quintet, John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Bird Calls, Jonathan Finlayson's Sicilian Defense, Dan Weiss's Large Ensemble, Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse, the Darius Jones Quartet, Kate Gentile's Mannequins, Mario Pavone's Blue Dialect Trio, Anna Webber's Simple Trio, Ches Smith's We All Break, Michael Attias' Spun Tree, Ohad Talmor's Grand Ensemble, and Quinsin Nachoff's Flux. He is also among the core performers of John Zorn's Bagatelles.
Musicians with whom he performs and has performed include Jon Irabagon, Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet + 1, JD Allen, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green's Apex, Rez Abbasi's Invocation, Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler, Ralph Alessi's Baida Quartet, Dave King's Indelicate duo, Amir ElSaffar, Marc Ducret, David Torn, Vernon Reid, Clarence Penn and Penn Station, Linda Oh, Rudy Royston, Allison Miller, Donny McCaslin, Brad Shepik, and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society.
He has taught extensively with the Brooklyn-based School for Improvisational Music, as well as at the New School, NYU, and the Siena Jazz Workshop. He is also a 2015 receipient of a Doris Duke Impact Award and a 2012 recipient of a Pew Fellowship from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage."-Matt Mitchell Website (http://www.mattmitchell.us/bio/)
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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