Collin Sherman: Arc of a Slow Decline (Ex-Tol Recordings, 2020)

January 12, 2021 at 7:48 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Collin Sherman: Arc of a Slow Decline

New York-based jazz musician Collin Sherman is essentially a virtual band, recording improvised multi-tracked pieces with the discipline of a full ensemble. His twelfth album is a double-disc set, with the first containing lengthy pieces filled with sax and clarinet solos and modular synthesizers, although the electronic elements aren’t always obvious unless you’re paying close attention. Vibraphones give opener “Prey Upon the Flock” a bit of a loungey feel, and other moments sort of touch on klezmer, although maybe my brain is just programmed to think “klezmer” whenever I hear jazz clarinet. “Sycophant Parade” is less melodic and more ominous than other tracks on the first disc, but overall, these pieces are structured enough so that the improvisations coherently follow a guided path, and it’s not free jazz cacophony. After the raucous “Federal Occupation” ends the first half of the album, the second disc is starker and less rhythmic, usually just focusing on naked soloing and patient but less commanding drumming, with some synth textures contributing to the atmosphere. Two pieces include bowed gamelan in their instrument lists, with “Caesium Sculptures” being a swampy collage of strange plucks and burbles. “Sequestration Blues” brings back the drums, and is kind of a sleazy, untethered swing tune, and the concluding “Polar Ticks” is a mellow lament with vibraphone, although it rumbles a bit more towards the end.

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