Quin Kirchner Credit: Courtesy the Artist

The Shadows and the Light, the new album from Chicago drummer Quin Kirchner, is an eclectic collection of freewheeling studio performances with a diverse range of sounds. On its second track, “Batá Chop,” the album features influences of West African batá drum and traces of Afro-Cuban drumming (which Kirchner learned as a teenager while studying in Havana), but elsewhere there are bebop flourishes and interplanetary adornments originally stylized by the mystical jazz mad hatter, Sun Ra. Opener “Shadow Intro” features Kirchner solo on overdubbed drum kit, congas, and synths, showcasing his chops without extraneous accompaniment. The album goes on to present organ- and horn-laden jazz that allows his compositional abilities to shine, played by a revolving all-star group of local musicians that includes bassist Matt Ulery, tenor saxophonist and flutist Nate Lepine, Wurlitzer player Rob Clearfield, alto saxophonist Greg Ward, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, and trombonist Nick Broste (who also mixed and helped engineer the album along with Kirchner and Brian Sulpizio). The first few tracks on The Shadows and the Light seem intended to be singular compositions, but then Kirchner begins to experiment with creating mini movements; as one song ends, the next picks up exactly where it leaves off. He does this with the fifth and sixth tracks, his own “Pathways” and an arrangement of the Kelan Phil Cohran tune “Sahara.” “Pathways” is sparse and minimal, with Kirchner’s kalimba accompanied only by Ulery’s quiet pizzicato on upright bass; it ends with Lepine’s soft flute flowing into “Sahara,” which quickly swells with saxophones and rumbling drum fills. Kirchner reverses this technique on the next two tracks, the all-horn quintet “Star Cluster” and the septet piece “Moon Vision.” The first erupts with a flood of free improvisation on trombone, bass clarinet, and three saxophones, wailing without form or limitation, and the second immediately moves into something softer and more restrained. Kirchner isn’t just playing around with these mini movements; he’s exploring sound and visualization through evocative pieces that transcend tangible reality, and he adds additional context with vivid titles such as “Lucid Dreams,” “Jupiter Moon,” and “Horizons.” The Shadows and the Light is a tightly plotted-out dream world that showcases Kirchner’s creative spirit, as well as the seriousness and refinement he brings to the table—you can practically hear the cogs systematically moving in his head from track to track. It all works because Kirchner is a strong musician who knows how to transform eccentricity into something that can appeal to diverse listeners, rather than jazz aficionados alone.   v