On Further Explorations, their first disc together, the Alchemy Sound Project play up the interconnectedness of all music in a performance that is a unique combination of whimsy and fervour. Each instrumentalist is such a master craftsman with so singular a voice that it would be hard to imagine them playing together. However, music is the great leveller of egos, it would seem and those of this group of musicians have been firmly hung by the door so this recital will literally make you fall in love with chamber music all over again. The compositions on this disc, contributed by different members of the ensemble, all share a combination of loose-limbed, popular appeal and profundity of thought. But they go even further in originality and exploratory boldness, summing up a lifetime’s experience in music that ranges from the noisy community of the city via the club, to the poetry of an epic musical voyage.
The music is endlessly enthralling from the profound gradations of dynamic and timbre of Salim Washington’s ‘Charcoal, Clear, Beautiful All Over’ that might easily be traced to visionary poetry of the Song of Songs and its exaltation of skin burnt by the glorious sun. Samantha Boshnack journeys into a secret thicket, there to find the key that unlocks the magic of sound. David Arend, writing in the manner of Leoš Janáček finds rhapsodic expression in ‘Her Name Is Love’. Similarly the emergence of Sumi Toonaka’s ‘Joie De Vivre,’ unsullied by the bucolic delirium of all the music that has gone before it emerges with animated triumph. And on and on it goes from one composition to the next as you come to be convinced that these musicians have pondered this music deeply and taken nothing for granted in its performance.
It’s in the melding of registers I find the Alchemy Sound Project particularly compelling. To that end what Salim Washington brings to the project is truly special. Not since Eric Dolphy blew his heart out with John Coltrane and Charles Mingus have I heard a reeds and woodwinds player engaged in such daring-do. The manner in which he captures the music’s darting, ferbrile quality with such brazenness, precision and grace is sure to win him many accolades. But do not for a moment believe that Washington is the only contributor to this astonishing music. Each instrumentalist is responsible for making this an adrenalin-pumped affair. And you can experience this in the interminable dance between melody and harmony, in Erica Lindsay’s ‘Beta’.
All of the musicians leap right out of their comfort zones and shifts in mood are real and superbly caught by the masterful handling of miking and the manipulation of the recording console. This makes for sound that is immediate and present; there’s the occasional audible intake of breath but not enough to distract. You might need professional grade speakers to best enjoy the power of the sound, but even if you listen to this disc on a humble car-stereo its beauty will still shine through.
Track List: Charcoal, Clear, Beautiful All Over; Further Explorations; Alchemical; Waiting; Beta; Her Name Is Love; Archetype; Divergency; Joie De Vivre; The Call.
Personnel: Erica Lindsay: tenor saxophone; Sumi Tonooka: piano; Salim Washington: tenor saxophone, oboe, alto flute, bass clarinet; David Arend: double bass; Samantha Boshnack: trumpet, flugelhorn; Willem de Koch: trombone; Max Wood: drums, percussion.
Label: Artists Recording Collective (ARC)
Release date: May 2016
Running time: 1:07:49