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Monday, June 18, 2018

CD Review: Alchemy Sound Project - Adventures in Time and Space

Samantha Boshnack (trumpet/flugel); Erica Lindsay (tenor); Salim Washington (tenor/flute/bass clarinet); Michael Spearman (trombone), Sumi Tonooka (piano), David Arend (double bass), Johnathan Blake (drums/perc)
(Review by Dave Brownlow)
Adventures in Time and Space, the second album by the group Alchemy Sound Project, displays its further development since 2016. The five core members, all talented players and composers, have  contributed charts to the project which aims to combine “chamber jazz, symphonic music, modern jazz and big band.” Trombonist Michael Spearman and drummer Johnathan Blake complete the band for this release. There is much to like about this CD – imaginative themes, ‘far-out’ but logical contemporary solos, wide-ranging tonal palettes, a terrific rhythm section built on some ‘foundational’ bass playing from Arend (who plays bass like it should be played – not like a guitar !) and ‘chivvying’ drums from Blake.
Erica Lindsay’s opening contribution, Adventures in Time and Space, sounds how the “Birth of the Cool” band of Davis, Mulligan, Konitz, Gil Evans, Lewis et al might have sounded if it had been able to stay together!  After an “Impressionist” start, solos combine and intertwine seamlessly with written sections.
David Arend’s Ankh follows having a dreamy melody with subtle harmonic shifts leading to vigorous solos pushed on by ever-challenging drums.
Song of the Whistle Wing is trumpeter Boshnack’s written contribution, and inspired by her child-hood memories of growing up in rural New York has a more abstract feel. Again, written parts segue into solos at a lively tempo with surprising moments from tenorist Lindsay. A dramatic move into a second part has a trumpet solo in a Spanish vein leading to an abrupt ending; a very ‘musical’ track which holds one’s attention throughout.
Salim Washington’s Odysseus Leaves Circe comes from his admiration of artist Romare Bearden’s painting of the same name. Beginning with a stately ‘chorale’ also included is a Mingus/Dolphy-like conversation between the bass and the bass-clarinet. We’re left at the conclusion to wonder if Odysseus managed to free himself from Circe and her charms! 
Pianist Sumi Tonooka provides the next composition – Transition Waltz (for Matt) - which opens with a “Debussyian-style intro from the pianist/composer and a melody seemingly from the “Bill Evans Songbook”, a call and response duet between piano and flute and a final refrain. 
Lindsey’s second song Jeff’s Joy concludes the album. Composed in tribute to bandleader Jeff Siegal, it is somewhat ‘Coltrane-esque’ in its rhythmic urgency and an opening tenor solo from Erica fed by “Tyner-style” chords. Again, the bass/drums team works hard to maintain the churning pulse in the familiar ‘John C’ style of performance.
Overall, a praiseworthy effort in combining the individual voices of diverse composers with improvisation, thus crossing the borders between jazz, world music and modern chamber music.
Dave B.
Available now on ARC – 2857    from www.alchemysoundproject.com

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