Exposé Online banner

Empirical — Connection
(Cuneiform Rune 416, 2016, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-07-18

Connection Cover art

The vibraphone is an instrument with a distinctive sound that seems to conjure up certain moods. It’s generally bright and happy, even when playing the blues, though at times can lean a little towards eerie or spooky. Without electronic manipulation, it just has a clean sound that seems cheerful. It has a long history in jazz, of course, but when it comes to the kind of boundary-pushing creative jazz I prefer, there aren’t a lot of vibes players out there. There is more to Empirical than just the vibes, but given that bass, drums, and sax are pretty standard fare, it’s the vibes that stand out. When it comes to jazz on Cuneiform, Empirical is more in the realm of Claudia Quintet than Mujician or Soft Machine, though they lack the chamber music elements of John Hollenbeck’s group. So while Empirical isn’t pushing out into the outer reaches of jazz with electronics or noise, they do have a distinctive take on post-bop, post-fusion music. Nathaniel Facey’s alto playing is fluid and edgy without being screechy or falling prey to the wimpy sound some altoists have. On the vibes, Lewis Wright gives us rich, dense chords, imaginative melodic lines, and impressive solos. The rhythm section of Shaney Forbes (drums) and Tom Farmer (bass) are the main reason I think of the group as “post-whatever” — they are clearly playing jazz, but there’s no resorting to cliches like a straight swing beat with a walking bass line outlining a blues progression. My favorite track is probably “Card Clash,” which features a bouncy melody in parallel dissonant voicings between the sax and vibes. It’s a lovely touch that sets up some of Wright’s best playing. Connection may not be the kind of album that jumps out at you on first listen, but it’s got charms that reveal themselves given time.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Empirical

Latest news

2019-10-06
Ginger Baker RIP – Legendary English drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. After coming to fame with Cream in the 60s alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, he became one of the most recognized and influential drummers of the rock era. On September 25, his family announced that he was critically ill, and on October 6 his death was confirmed. » Read more

2019-08-20
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Sándor Szabó / Kevin Kastning - Parabola – Like the previous Szabó/Kastning duets, Parabola consists of improvisations utilizing different kinds of acoustic guitar other than the standard variety – 6- and 12- string baritones and...  (2010) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues