During the last couple of years I’ve been increasingly impressed by the playing and writing of reedist Anna Webber, a British Columbia native based in Brooklyn. She has a knack for idea-rich, multipartite compositions that sound great in multiple contexts, whether in her nimble trio with pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer John Hollenbeck or a larger European group where her gift for contrapuntal arrangements shines; she’s also an impressive soloist. But none of that earlier stuff prepared me for what she’s doing in a newer trio called the Hero of Warchester with fellow reedist Nathaniel Morgan and synthesizer player Liz Kosack. The trio performs on Thursday night at Constellation.
I don’t have a physical copy of the group’s new eponymous debut on Prom Night, but I’m laying down good odds that the music is all improvised. And as with Webber’s other projects in which there are lots of intersecting lines, on this release the structures were seemingly created on the fly, with an emphasis on stark colors and tactile textures. The album opens with “Buzzard,” on which ominous long tones from all three musicians create haunting harmonies and a drone begins to turn sour with microscopic little digressions until the individual lines pull apart. As they separate—and occasionally fall back in line—they only create more tension, with rapidly fluttering saxophones and whistling electronics upending the relative calm with a portent of dread. Listen to it below.
On the following piece, “Everyone Needs a Hero,” Webber and Morgan blow abstract harmonics, with striated tones on the cusp of disintegration blending together over rumbling, intermittent synth static; at its most sparse it sounds like a nightmarish jungle soundscape. The players are jazz-schooled, but this is nothing so much as a rigorous, deeply satisfying exploration of pure sound, space, and high-level interaction. You might not remember anything about a particular piece, but you won’t forget how these musicians play off one another and work together. A trio featuring drummer Julian Kirshner, saxophonist Keefe Jackson, and ARP titan Jim Baker will play first.
Horace Parlan, Headin’ South (Blue Note, Japan)
Valery Gergiev & London Symphony Orchestra, Brahms: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 (LSO Live)
Jorge Drexler, Bailar en la Cueva (Warner Music Latina)
Walter Jackson, It’s All Over: the OKeh Recordings Vol. 1 (Kent)
Poul Ruders, Nightshade Trilogy (Bridge)