Creative Nation Music
Period Pieces is the follow-up to this quartet’s 2020 Tale of the Twelve-Foot Man which we covered on these pages. Although we don’t see “Dylan Jack Quartet” on the cover, we see the same four names – guitarist Eric Hofbauer, drummer Dylan Jack, bassist Anthony Leva and trumpeter Jerry Sabatini in a set of eight, electronically infused improvised pieces. Purposely, they didn’t use the Dylan Jack Quartet naming convention to accentuate the fact that the four of them came together to listen and improvise. So, in that vein, these are improvised rather than composed pieces per se. Think of them as sound fragments. Aside from the electronic touches which are heard right away in the opening “Sighs in the Millions” (note both Hofbauer and Leva list “electronics” in the credits), as the album evolves it will remind of a leaner, more spacious and far less dense version of electric Miles Davis, especially as the first track segues into “Awake-Again” with Sabatini’s trumpet leading the way. As they proved last time out, these four are skilled at applying judicious use of space, echo effects, and accents, sometimes when you least expect them.
The idea of these musical pieces to which all four share writing credits, is the concept of pulse, generating tension, release, and an eventual placid state, which seems almost impossible from the opening salvos of electronica but those undulating currents are very apparent in “Awake-Again.” It’s in-the-moment, spontaneous composition where at times the trumpet and at other times, the guitar leads. “Tread Lightly” seems to meander in drones until Sabatini enters with anguished, effect-driven trumpet tones while Jack creates machine-like sounds on the kit. “With a Purpose” is companion piece that further extends the somber mood at the end of former in a funeral duet between Sabatini and Hofbauer’s echoing trumpet. It’s not point-counterpoint but the guitarist rips off fascinating chords in response to the trumpet lines.
“Rational Instability” picks up the tempo and collective energy with driving grooves, fast bebop Clifford Brown-like trumpet runs with weird guitar sounds and effects lending to overall chaotic feel, let alone the staccato rhythms. Apparent calm drifts in at the outset of “Finding Baraka” (from Sufi meaning ‘a vessel through which force flows’) which unfolds into nuanced, intimate conversations to create a dreamlike soundscape which never completely settles with disturbances from plucked bass or guitar notes and unexpected percussive clicks and clacks. This leads to the aptly titled “Restlessness” features not so much conversations but more like excitement of kids at a playground – an array of grunts, shouts, and screams as Leva’s bowed bass and Sabatini ‘s trumpet trade jabs, conjuring some deep, guttural sounds. Surely the four were having fun as reflected in the tongue-in-cheek bass outro. Frenzy frolic reaches its peak in the closing “Galumphing Demons,” another aptly named title. Jack goes into an Elvin Jones-on-speed mode on the kit, driving the mayhem.
This is creative, in-the-moment music making that you need to find time for. Even if you’re put off by the electronica and weirdness that start these proceedings, stick with it. You’ll be drawn in and intrigued to see just where it goes as they play off each other.
- Jim Hynes