Brett Cimbalik + Brad Fritcher — Sunrider
(Chambray CHAM 012, 2015, DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2015-10-09
Over the years since jazz and electronics first crossed paths (thank you, Miles Davis, wherever you are), artists have come up with a wide variety of ways to do that combination, from using electronic instruments as decorations for music played by acoustic instruments to almost purely electronic music with a few live acoustic instruments. Brett Cimbalik (guitar, drums, programming, synthesizers, bass guitar) and Brad Fritcher (trumpet, drums, synthesizers, field recordings) have come up with an interesting hybrid, with the electronic sounds dominating, and the jazz element coming primarily from the trumpet (and sometimes the drums). They are joined by guests on some of the tracks for piano and other keyboards, modular synthesizer, upright bass, flute, drums, saxophone, and (on one track) vocals. In mood, I’m often reminded of some of David Sylvian’s work, when Kenny Wheeler was his frequent guest, as on Brilliant Trees or Gone to Earth. Another reference is some of the work done by artists like Spring Heel Jack and others in the Thirsty Ear realm. But Cimbalik and Fritcher have their own take on it, often working into a mellow funky groove, but things are never as simple as they seem. Rhythms are layered over each other that provide an unsettled feeling by including both triplets and sixteenths. Structural expectations are confounded – no head-solos-head arrangements here. “What Is?” is especially interesting, as it features the largest number of players (full rhythm section plus trumpet, flute, and several keyboard parts) and the most prominent guitar in the set. Plus the blips and bleeps and ring modulator sounds from the modular synth really add a unique touch – you don’t hear that a lot in jazz (and I don’t have any trouble calling it jazz, though purists would no doubt object). The vocal track, “To Her, I,” is the one I’m most ambivalent about, though it’s not that there’s anything wrong with it. It comes off as a little more poppish, even though there are still many eccentric touches. But that’s a small issue – on the whole, this short set (only 30 minutes) is quite enjoyable, and very distinctive.
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