Exposé Online banner

Ergo — As Subtle as Tomorrow
(Cuneiform Rune 419, 2016, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2017-02-20

As Subtle as Tomorrow Cover art

One of the promising recent trends in music around the world has been the increasing cross-fertilization of what can roughly be labeled academic chamber music with other styles. Of course this is something that’s been going on for a long time, at least back to the first hints of ragtime that showed up in the “serious” piano repertoire, and includes composers such as Gershwin and Ives. Coming at it from the other side, jazz innovators like Duke Ellington brought elements of classical music into jazz, and starting in the 70s various rock groups initiated what has come to be called chamber rock. Starting with Univers Zéro and others, through to Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, The Claudia Quintet, The Cellar and Point, and Tatvamasi, to name a few. We’ve come a long way since I attended a young composers’ camp and one of the other attendees told me, “I like jazz fine — but I prefer music.” Ergo is in the same general category, with their own particular blend of chamber music, jazz, rock, and electronics. Trombonist Brett Sroka is the composer, and while Ergo is only a trio — Sroka joined by Shawn Baltazor (drums) and Sam Harris (keyboards) — the use of live electronics often gives the illusion of a larger ensemble. The overall impression is generally minimalist, consisting of one or two elements at a time, with the electronics providing a kind of ambient counterpoint flying off the played parts like sparks flying off a grinding wheel. (The metaphor is only partly apt, since Ergo’s music has none of the crude noise that a grinding wheel implies.) Harris’s piano is often the underpinning of the pieces, sometimes natural and sometimes prepared, though he also uses a Rhodes electric piano. The tumbling arpeggios are infused with a sense of calm which is enhanced by the echoes and reverberations they trigger. Sroka’s trombone provides both melody and texture, with a yearning, mournful tone that never ventures into the kind of jazz cliches that so many players rely on. At times it sounds more like a trumpet or something unworldly, and it too goes into the electronic stew. Baltazor’s drumming combines a jazzy approach with great sensitivity to what’s going on around him, never just laying back and swinging. In fact, his parts don’t really seem to be based on patterns but on either supporting the pulse expressively (when there is a pulse) or providing his own color in the freer sections. As Subtle as Tomorrow is a lovely musical vision inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem, and in aesthetic has the same gauzy suggestiveness without concrete resolution.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Ergo

Latest news

2018-07-31
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more

2018-06-13
Jon Hiseman RIP – One of the great drummers of the rock era has died. Jon Hiseman was a veteran of such ground-breaking groups as Colosseum (I and II), Tempest, John Mayal's Bleusbreakers, and was a founding member of the innovative large band United Jazz + Rock Ensemble. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Crucis - Kronologia – Here's the summary — this is easily one of the best 10 CDs claiming the progressive rock title to be released, well, since they invented the medium! How could any music live up to such lavish...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues