Wayne Horvitz: At the Reception

Originally published in Earshot Jazz December 2014

The first day of recording for the Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble at London Bridge Studios went so well, saxophonist Skerik asked, “Why are we coming back tomorrow?” Not that the day was grueling. In fact it was very relaxed. Everyone was in a good mood. Everyone was in the same room and no one wore headphones, just like the extremely casual every other Monday night gigs at the Royal Room over the last two years. There was food and beer. The band made three or four takes of each song in the same order that they appear on the CD so there was not much need for editing. Only one tune was spliced from multiple takes. Andy Meyer manned the board at London Bridge, Brian Montgomery mixed the session, and Graemme Brown mastered the recording.

The result is breathtaking - flawless, flowful, continuously intriguing, swinging, surprising, and an honest representation of the how the ensemble sounds live. Horvitz admits to maybe not taking the band right to the edge of the cliff in the studio like he does at the group’s home in Columbia City. But he did use the “conduction” technique of his mentor Butch Morris – improvising the performance of each piece through cues instead of reading a song from the upper left of the first page to the lower right of the last.

“A Walk in the Rain” evokes film noir, but slightly more playful than the cynical movie genre. After the piano introduction by Ryan Burns and melodic statement, trombonist Naomi Siegel unleashes a blat-fest with tenor saxophonist Skerik. The tunes ends with a quick curtain closing vamp topped by dueling solos from trumpeter Al Keith and trombonist Jacob Herring.

“Forgiveness” shows off Horvitz’s gorgeous orchestration, tenderly and meticulously performed and improvised upon by the winds. The tonal colors are so rich, even the tinniest ear will experience synesthesia.

“Daylight” begins with Samantha Boshnack’s microtonal trumpet stretching over a low brass drone and Geoff Harper’s sitar sounding solo before hitting a swinging vamp with an angular reed melody and brass punches. Steve O’Brien shifts between shouts and whispers during his trumpet solo interrupted briefly by the band and a short Ivan Arteaga alto saxophone solo.

“Trish” is a lush waltz for the sighing solo by Greg Sinibaldi on baritone saxophone.

“Barber Shop” bounces like a parade of marching clowns with saxophone solos by a swooping and diving Kate Olson on soprano and a squawking Skerik on tenor.

“Ironbound” begins with weaving counterpoint between Ivan Arteaga’s alto saxophone and Beth Fleenor’s clarinet yielding to a drunken waltz with an energetic Eric Eagle drum solo over a unison melody by the winds, through a few sparsely decorated melodies, then a return of the unison a second time with a clarinet solo.

“Redux #2 (Daylight)” revisits “Daylight” briefly, but instead of India, this time the scene is an awakening American city. Listen to this next to the earlier version on track two and the variety of orchestration and mood available to this ensemble becomes astounding.

“Prepaid Funeral” comes alive with Al Keith bopping over a Morse code vamp by the piano and drums. Ivan Arteaga inserts improvised comments inside the melody then trombonist Willem de Koch launches a golden toned flight over a group improvisation. The rhythm section shrinks to a whisper for an intimate exploration by tenor saxophonist Skerik.

Ryan Burns begins “First Light” with pointillist notes over a shifting fog of winds. The fog thickens with freely improvising reeds and rhythm shadowed by brass clouds. Again Horvitz highlights his colorful orchestration and the ensemble displays its masterful unity of sound.

“Sweeter Than the Day” is arranged as a rich wind ensemble hymn to again feature the savory trombone tone of Williem de Koch and syrupy saxophone testifying of Skerik.

Slapstick “Disingenuous Firefight” marches over a ticking clock bass figure with solos by Naomi Siegel and Al Keith.

The title track, “At the Reception” is a swinging affair with trumpeter Steve O’Brien boisterously greeting visitors. Kate Olson pirouettes through the crowd on soprano saxophone with Beth Fleenor deftly balancing drinks as she jostles through her clarinet solo.

“Redux #4 (Sweeter Than the Day)” closes the CD with a succinct low down mournful interpretation this time through.

If you can’t get down to the Royal Room on a Monday night to experience this ensemble live, at least add this music to your personal collection.

Visit http://www.waynehorvitz.com/ to read more about Wayne.

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