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På skive


«Sara Schoenbeck»

American bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck has a sacred mission. Schoenbeck dedicates herself to discovering, exploring and expanding the role of the double reed instrument as a leading voice in contemporary composition and improvised music. Schoenbeck is known from her collaborations with Anthony Braxton’s 12+1(tet) and Tri-Centric Orchestra, Wayne Horvitz’s Gravitas Quartet, her partner Harris Eisenstadt’s Golden State, Nels Cline’s Lovers, Adam Rudolph’s Organic Orchestra, and the contemporary ensembles SEM and Wet Ink.

Schoenbeck’s self-titled album highlights the versatility, the beauty, and the sonic palette of the bassoon with some of the most intrepid improvisers – – peers, mentors, inspirations and family – for an adventurous set of duos. Each piece is tailored to Schoenbeck’s partners, ranging from compositions to free improvisations to songs, and all offer distinct perspectives on the sonic universe of the bassoon.

The opening piece «O’Saris» was written by Schoenbeck for her partner in life and music, drummer Harris Eisenstadt. The profound personal and musical connection produces an understated, simple melody that allows Shoenbeck to suggest quiet musings of the bassoon and to both her and Harris to play with multiphonics and overtones. The following «Sand Dune Trilogy» with flutist Nicole Mitchell, who has played with Schoenbeck in the woodwind section of Anthony Braxton’s 12(+1)tet, begins as a meditative piece, followed by slow grooves, and concluded by dirge-inspired coda. This piece investigates microtonality and is dedicated to pioneering microtonal bassoonist Johnny Reinhard. «Absence» was written by Schoenbeck for master double bass player Mark Dresser and is also a tribute to her friend, bassoonist Marcuselle Whitfield who died at the age of 28 in 1998. This somber chamber piece enables both musicians to sketch a gentle and intimate dance, that stresses the dark woody sounds of their respective instruments.

«Lullaby», by the art-rock band Low, with experimental guitarist Nels Cline, who plays here also the electric bass, and has played together with Schoenbeck in Vinny Golia’s Large Ensemble and later hosted her on his «Lovers» album (Blue Note, 2016), suggests a mysterious-haunting dreamscape and pays respects to Low’s slowcore aesthetics. Pianist Matt Mitchell composed «Auger Strokes» especially for this album, and this thoughtful chamber piece plays with intricately rhythmic ideas and silences. Pianist-vocalist Robin Holcomb, the partner of Wayne Horvitz, who hosts Schoenbeck in her quartet, composed the last piece, the soulful and beautiful song «Sugar» for the same quartet. This song highlights Holcomb’s qualities as a unique vocalist and songwriter and her profound affinity with Schoenbeck.

«Chordata» is a free improvised duet with soprano sax player Roscoe Mitchell, a mentor of Schoenbeck who studied his chamber music and improvisations for many years, even before she met him. After Mitchell asked Schoenbeck to play in his «Cutouts for Woodwind Quintet» (Wide Hive, 2020) she asked him to record this duet, described by her as «education for me in the contained development of granular ideas», full of sonic surprises and exploration of extended breathing techniques. «Anaphoria», dedicated composer and instrument builder Kraig Grady, is another free improvisation with pianist and electronics player Wayne Horvitz, a frequent musical partner of Schoenbeck, based on subtle electronics and microtones, and exploring a reflective soundscape. The third and last improvisation «Suspend A Bridge», with cellist Peggy Lee, another member of Horvitz’s Gravitas Quartet, moves between the refined and contained and the intense and thorny.

No doubt, Schoenbeck proves that the bassoon has a vital place in the creative music world. Moreover, she demonstrates her idiosyncratic voice as a composer, improviser and interpreter.

Eyal Hareuveni

Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Harris Eisenstadt (dr), Nicole Mitchell (fl), Nels Cline (el.g, el. b), Roscoe Mitchell (ss), Matt Mitchell (p); Mark Dresser (b), Wayne Horvitz (p, elec), Peggy Lee (c), Robin Holcomb (p, v) 

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