Sailing Neptune's Waters
Arnold Hammerschlag, trumpet Michel Gentile, flute Ethan Iverson, piano Owen Howard, drums All compositions by Arnold Hammerschlag Recorded live at Renee Weiler Recital Hall, Greenwich House Music School, New York City, January 2000. Recorded by Jon Rosenberg. Mixed by Jon Rosenberg and Phil Haynes. These tunes were written from 1994 to 1998, a time for me that began with moving to New York City from Seattle, Washington and ended at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Northern California. Some of the stops along the way included Sophia Delza's T'ai-Chi Ch'uan studio at Carnegie Hall and Karme Choling Meditation Center in Vermont. An image that I was thinking about during this time was that of a black box theater. The intention was to write melodies that would have a particular personality, atmosphere or setting that would thrive in this imaginary theater space. In this way the essence of the melodies themselves would serve as the primary reference point for improvisation. Review from Downtown Music Gallery, April 2003 ARNOLD HAMMERSCHLAG GROUP - Sailing Neptune's Waters (SMR # 121) This features Arnold on trumpet, Michel Gentile on flute, Ethan Iverson on piano and Owen Howard on drums. Recently local jazz piano wiz Ethan Iverson's trio The Bad Plus have garnered much praise and press since signing with Sony which seems to have no more jazz department. After a half dozen often ignored releases on the Fresh Sounds New Talent label, why does the public begin to notice his great piano trio? Mainly because they have been covering rock tunes from bands like Nirvana. This is certainly an interesting development. Can't say that I've heard of Arnold or Michel before this, but I do recognize (drummer) Mr. Howard from a fine release he had out a few years back as a leader. Mr. Hammerschlag moved here from Seattle in 1994 and composed all of the tunes on this fine CD. It is always a challenge to have a project without using a bassist, but it is not so uncommon nowadays. Each piece is dedicated to a different person, three well known musicians/composers and three friends of Arnold's. 'Swish' opens and is dedicated to Mozart. Ethan plays gnarly main theme while the trumpet and flute sail somberly on top taking soft swirling solos. 'Dance Piece #5' is a suspenseful and spacious piece for floating spirits, with minimal haunting sounds on a delicate cushion of silence, which builds to a brooding, swirling conclusion. There is more hushed elegance on 'Lady in Black' where the trumpet and flute play the exquisite, melancholy melody as Ethan also plays his drifting chords as punctuation. The flute, trumpet and piano all take lovely warm-toned solos here, rich and quite lyrical. The title tune is a dreamy, drifting piece for more floating spirits, with luscious, graceful piano, grand mallet work, sad and beautiful trumpet and flute moving in somber waves together. Arnold names a piece 'Ornette' and then dedicates it to Billy Strayhorn, it is a busy, challenging and quick paced piece which keeps each member of the quartet locked into it's difficult scheme with fast, inspired solos from the flute, trumpet and piano and Owen's spinning drums pushing throughout. The final piece is 'Tom's Junkyard' for Tom Waits and it is another somber piece for mainly duo sections of flute and drums with some piano and trumpet gliding through. It is a sort-of ballad which just hangs in the air and then floats away. Nice. Overall, this is a fine break from some of the intense fireworks of other aforementioned downtown releases this week. CD release for $14. Review from Cadence Magazine, September 2003 Trumpeter Arnold Hammerschlag's liner notes to Sailing Neptune's Waters sketch out his intriquingly offbeat, multidisciplinary career, which has included stints at Sophia Delza's T'ai-Chi Ch'uan studio at Carnegie Hall and the Karme Choling Meditation Center in Vermont. It's thus no surprise that he finds analogies for his compositions in terms of another artform: he says that he thought of them as pieces for an 'imaginary theater space.' The band's improbable instrumentation (trumpet, flute, piano and drums) gives the music an enjoyable off-kilter feeling, almost as if it was an ad-hoc assemblage. Iverson has the most difficult role here, of course, given the absence of a bassist: on tunes like 'Swish' (dedicated to Mozart) and 'Ornette' (dedicated to . . . Billy Strayhorn?!) his left hand splits the difference between mock-classical formality and clunky barrelhouse rhythms. Often it's the pianist who gives the pieces their momentum, while Howard's light, slinky drumming seasons the music rather than propels it. This is a winningly idiosyncratic disc which suggests that the trumpeter possesses a gentle, likeably skewed sensibility: it ends beautifully with the quirky gospel piano fo 'Tom's Junkyard,' dedicated to Tom Waits. Nate Dorward.