Brass Tonic Records BTR 001
One of the first things I do when I see a new album is look at its personnel, and assuming I’m familiar with anyone on the album, it usually gives me an idea as to how I will respond to it. Although I’m unfamiliar with trumpeter and vocalist Sarah Wilson I love Myra Melford’s music, and as such I was enthusiastic to open Wilson’s new album Trapeze Project and put it in the player. I was not disappointed.
What I love about Trapeze Project is that every player is given space to shine on this record and never fails to do so. It’s rare when the date’s leader will sit out on soloing on not one, but several tracks. This album feels more like it was made by a collective than by a leader who insists on taking the first solo on every cut. On “Possibility” Melford unleashes roiling torrents of cascading sound over the frenetic and unsteady base laid down by bassist Jerome Harris and drummer Scott Amendola. She pounds out bluesy lines on “To New Orleans” that eventually wrap around Wilson and Goldberg’s musings in a traditional New Orleans style collective improvisation. Ben Goldberg, who I’m hearing for the first time here, lives up to what I’ve heard about his playing and threatens to steal the show on several occasions. He has a clear clarinet tone and is as effective when playing quiet, measured and pastoral phrases and flourishes, like on the bulk of “Fall Has Arrived,” as he is when blowing down straightahead virtuosic lines. Goldberg and Melford’s wild, yet restrained, interaction on “In Resonance Light Takes Place” is especially engaging. Harris’ solo introduction opens up “Himalyas” and after the band states the head he takes a lengthy solo that is characterized by seemingly simple 8th note lines which he develops, restates in new ways, then slowly complicates before giving way to Melford.
There is a wonderful sense of simplicity, innocence and plainness in Wilson’s playing, singing and writing, and along with the top level playing from the members of her band, it’s the disc’s most noticeable and praiseworthy attributes. Wilson’s playing and singing (check her trumpet on “She Stands in a Room” and vocals on “Melancholy for Place”) will not blow you away with virtuosity or fireworks, but what will stick with you is the genuine and straightforward quality in both. Her compositions and melodies have a knack for getting stuck in my head and the influences on Trapeze Project are wide ranging: the three tracks where Wilson sings lyrics (“Melancholy for Place,” Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear us Apart,” and “From the River”) could be considered indie-pop, there are several instances where the band verges on going completely sideways, the blues aesthetic is always there, and there’s a celebratory folk music feel that at times contain hints of New Orleans second line. Despite the divergence in influences the disc has a unified aesthetic that the band pulls off superbly. Wilson’s trumpet, voice and pen seem to be three manifestations of the same artistic voice, a voice which is well documented on Trapeze Project.
Tracks: Blessing; She Stands in a Room; At Zebulon; Melancholy for Place; Himalayas; In Resonance Light Takes Place; Love Will Tear Us Apart; Underneath the Soil; Fall Has Arrived; Possibility; From the River; To New Orleans.
Personnel: Sarah Wilson, trumpet, vocals; Ben Goldberg, clarinet; Myra Melford, piano; Jerome Harris, bass; Scott Amendola, drums.