Sciences – from mathematics to the furthest reaches of astronomy – have preoccupied many artists since the dawn of music, poetry, painting and drama. But Quinsin Nachoff is far from the proverbial “long line” of artists to be bewitched by it all. His work is a studied and measured reaction to numbers, measurements and intervals which, because he is drawn to improvisation as much as to composition, takes on the form of music whose notes almost always fly off the pages on which it is written. The music of Path of Totality comes as part of a continuing response to the constant state of wonder that the saxophonist and composer finds himself in while regarding the world in which he lets us know that musically-speaking he is fortunate to be a part of.
Therefore, although necessary reactions to the facts of time and space, this work may also be regarded as “imaginary soundscapes” in which the listener is led slowly through an ever-changing musical scenery, viewing familiar landmarks from constantly evolving perspectives. In Path of Totality, for instance, six works of hauntingly sombre lyricism are presented for brass, winds, keyboards and percussion and each is powerfully muted for most of their length, but often rising at the centre to a vast and shattering climax. Two musical signposts stand out from the constant flux: On Disc One, for instance, this is “Toy Piano Meditation” with its tintinnabulation of Mark Duggan’s marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel and Tibetan singing bowls and on Disc Two it is the melodic fragments for saxophones and the growling drones of baritone saxophone and bass clarinet together with the brass ensemble on “March Macabre”. Both remind us – as does the rest of the work – of Mr Nachoff’s lyrical gifts, all the more moving for never being overindulged.
This sombre, often dark, series of works ends up appearing to become a geological and astrophysical metaphor in which the quartet and the rest of the ensemble is divided into several contiguous overlapping layers or “strata” whose shifting relationships evoke the massive natural forces that shape our planet. Sometimes the “strata” stack up immensely; at other moments, they thin to the most diaphanous textures; but always there is the sense of returning to the same point, only to discover that the view has changed in the interim. On top of these seismic musical perspectives Mr Nachoff creates a virtuoso orchestral superstructure whose riotous details suggest the teeming surface life of the Earth in all its protean glory.
Track list – Disc One – 1: Path of Totality; 2: Bounce; 3: Toy Piano Meditation. Disc Two – 4: March Macabre; 5: Splatter; 6: Orbital Resonances.
Personnel – David Binney: alto saxophone and C melody saxophone; Quinsin Nachoff: tenor saxophone and soprano saxophone; Matt Mitchell: piano, Prophet 6, modular synthesiser, Novachord, harpsichord and Estey pump harmonium; Kenny Wollesen: drums and Wollesonic percussion (1, 3, 4, 6); Nate Wood: drums (1, 2, 5, 6). Jason Barnsley: 1924 Kimball Theatre organ (2); Mark Duggan: marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, crotales and Tibetan singing bowls (3); Carl Maraghi: baritone saxophone and bass clarinet (4); Dan Urness: trumpet (4); Matt Holman: trumpet (4); Ryan Keberle: trombones (4); Alan Ferber: trombone and bass trombone (4); Orlando Hernández: tap dance (4); David Travers-Smith: Buchla 200E Analog Modular System, EMS Synthi 100 Analogue Synthesiser, Clavione, Oberheim SEM and Modular Moog (5)
Released – 2019
Label – Whirlwind Recordings (WR4733)
Runtime – Disc One – 45:53 Disc Two – 35:43