In August 2006, a concert was held at the Warehouse Theater in Washington DC. They were renovating at the time, and from the street it looked like the place was closed. A few brave souls who stayed in Washington for a swampy August night enjoyed a benefit concert for the Alkem Foundation, a service that provides web space to artists and musicians.
The show opened with a set by Joe Lally (of Fugazi). Accompanied by Jeff Barsky on guitar, he shared songs from his forthcoming debut solo album, "There to Here" (which has since been released on Dischord Records). Then came the DC Improvisers Collective (DCIC), joined for this special occasion by jazz heavyweight, Greg Osby.
It was a special night. Local arts journalist John Rickman put the show on his year-end top ten list. In addition to Greg Osby on alto sax, the DCIC lineup was: Ben Azzara, drums; Jonathan Matis, guitar; Mike Sebastian, tenor sax and saxello; Daniel Barbiero, bass.
The music comprises a fluid interplay of jazz and trans-jazz improvisation, a fourth stream synthesis blending organic and electronic textures and timbres to create a sound simultaneously rooted in tradition and looking forward.
Like so much avant music, the extended first track (clocking in at nearly forty minutes) may try your patience, but it also rewards your attention. The real heft of the show is here, as the quintet explores each instrumental combination at length. Thoughtful restraint and inspired blowing are present in equal measure. The swinging trio that ends the track has an effortless, breezy quality to it, yet the colors seem more vibrant, somehow intensified by the journey required to arrive at this most satisfying conclusion.
Similarly, Part two (relatively short at 14 minutes), takes its time before finding a groove. The textural explorations create a background image that lingers and colors the scene even when the band finds their footing and lets the rhythm drive. Notice how the prepared guitar returns after ten minutes, more like an old friend than an alien intrusion on the proceedings.
Part three, built from Barbiero's lyrical opening statement on bowed bass soon enters a chorale like phase with interweaving dual saxophone lines punctuated with strange slide guitar commentary. The devotional mood gradually moves into more ecstatic terrain, while maintaining the multi-threaded design. Sebastian and Osby egg each other on, building the piece's intensity through quick exchanges, and rapid displays of inspiration. New ideas tumble forward through unexpected twists and turns; all the while the group's singular focus remains strong.
NOTE: Track 3 available as free download; Purchase the album for only $5 minimum.
released September 1, 2009
Greg Osby: Alto saxophone
Ben Azzara: Drums
Daniel Barbiero: Bass
Jonathan Matis: Guitar
Mike Sebastian: Tenor saxophone, Saxello
Mastered by TJ Lipple.
Improv Arts, Inc.
3309 Bunker Hill Road
Mount Rainier, MD 20712