Byron Asher's Skrontch Music: Skrontch Music (Sinking City/digital outlets)

 |   |  1 min read

Elegy
Byron Asher's Skrontch Music: Skrontch Music (Sinking City/digital outlets)

Clarinetist/saxophonist/composer Byron Asher is not only based in New Orleans (hence the record label's name) but deeply immersed in its unique music and singular history.

With a 10-piece band on this ambitious but immediately engaging debut album, the award-winning composer crafts a five-movement piece based on his jazz research at Tulane University and interviews with members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

It is brought to colourful life by musicians who have played with John Boutte, Tim Berne and Marcus Roberts, or have been in other ensembles including the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

Let it be said that this is not some faithful recreation of bygone music but – as the introductory sound collage of the 13-minute opener Blues Obligato announces – something which touches the past and acknowledges it (Sidney Bechet for example) but also, as the piece evolves, exists in the more recent world with influences from the elegance of Ellington's bands and Nawlins funk.

Then, shortly after, the 21stcentury arrives with influences from the minimalist school on Aural History with its weave of melodic lines and repetition like early Philip Glass, then over a bed of melancholy horns the piece includes interview snippets from old jazz musicians reminiscing.

Voices are integral to this project (readings of an historic 19thcentury Supreme Court judgement appears in the swinging bop of Comite des Citoyens) because as a scholar Asher recognises people and history can speak for themselves without mediation.

The music can have a low intimacy or a cinematic reach (the lovely Elegy emerges from a quiet place into a widescreen, soaring piece then a controlled chaos tapestry of horns, cannoning drums and affirming bass) and the players here are exceptional.

To single any out would be unfair to the others because this is a project greater than the sum of its talented contributors (although there's some very cool arco playing by bassist James Singleton on the closer After This That!).

This is vibrant and living jazz which can also be stately and reflective as it brings the traditions into the present tense.

Very much a listening album which rewards every repeat play.

Check out the clip (and give it three minutes). 

You can hear Skrontch Music at Spotify here

Byron Asher is interviewed at Elsewhere here

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

PIANIST VIJAY IYER PROFILED (2009): The jazzman has a master plan

PIANIST VIJAY IYER PROFILED (2009): The jazzman has a master plan

Among the many things Wynton Marsalis learned from Miles Davis was this: never undersell yourself. If you know you’re a genius just say so. If you know the past and future of jazz just tell... > Read more

Paul Bley Quintet: Barrage (ESP-Disk)

Paul Bley Quintet: Barrage (ESP-Disk)

Recorded in one night in October '64 for the seminal free jazz label ESP-Disk (and initially re-presented in 2008 as part of their reissue programme), this selection of six pieces written by Carla... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

ERNEST RANGLIN INTERVIEWED (1999): Ska pioneer

ERNEST RANGLIN INTERVIEWED (1999): Ska pioneer

What becomes a legend most? In the case of Ernest Ranglin, good humour and modesty. This legend of Jamaican singlehandedly created ska back in the Fifties; recorded the young Bob Marley;... > Read more

Peter Haeder: Emerald/Singularity (Attar/Ode)

Peter Haeder: Emerald/Singularity (Attar/Ode)

Guitarist Haeder -- who sometimes records as phaeder -- has certainly spread his talents widely: he's played avant-garde improvised music; made music for film and television; done an album of... > Read more