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Alcorn, Susan Quintet: Pedernal (Relative Pitch)

An innovator in integrating pedal steel guitar into modern improvised music, Cleveland-born, Baltimore-based pedal steel guitar player Susan Alcorn's quintet enlists a superb set of New York players--Mark Feldman on violin, Michael Formanek on double bass, Mary Halvorson on guitar, and Ryan Sawyer on drums--taking on a diverse set of Alcorn compositions.
 

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product information:


UPC: 5902249002928

Label: Relative Pitch
Catalog ID: RPR1111
Squidco Product Code: 29810

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2020
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at The Bunker, in Brooklyn, New York, on November 12th, 2019, by John Davis.


Personnel:

Susan Alcorn-pedal steel guitar

Mark Feldman-violin

Michael Formanek-double bass

Mary Halvorson-guitar

Ryan Sawyer-drums

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Artist Biographies:

"Susan Alcorn (born 1953) is an American composer, improvisor, and pedal steel guitarist. Having started out playing guitar at the age of twelve, she quickly immersed herself in folk music, blues, and the pop music of the 1960s. A chance encounter with blues musician Muddy Waters steered her towards playing slide guitar. By the time she was twenty-one, she had immersed herself in the pedal steel guitar, playing in country and western swing bands in Texas.

Soon, she began to combine the techniques of country-western pedal steel with her own extended techniques to form a personal style influenced by free jazz, avant-garde classical music, Indian ragas, Indigenous traditions, and various folk musics of the world. By the early 1990s her music began to show an influence of the holistic and feminist "deep listening" philosophies of Pauline Oliveros.

Though mostly a solo performer, Alcorn has collaborated with numerous artists including Pauline Oliveros, Eugene Chadbourne, Peter Kowald, Chris Cutler, Joe Giardullo, Caroline Kraabel, Earl Howard, Le Quan Ninh, Sean Meehan, Joe McPhee, LaDonna Smith, Mike Cooper, Walter Daniels, Ellen Fullman, Jandek, George Burt, Janel Leppin, Michael Formanek, Ellery Eskelin, Fred Frith, Maggie Nicols, Evan Parker, Johanna Varner, Zane Campbell and Mary Halvorson."

-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Alcorn)
1/14/2021

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Mark Feldman (born 1955 in Chicago) is an American jazz violinist. Feldman worked in Chicago from 1973-1980, in Nashville, Tennessee from 1980-1986, in New York City and Western Europe from 1986. He has performed with John Zorn, John Abercrombie, The Masada String Trio, Dave Douglas, Uri Caine, and Billy Hart.

He was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and played in many bar bands in Chicago. He played on over 200 recordings in Nashville as a studio musician, was a member of the Nashville Symphony, and was a member of the touring groups of country western entertainers Loretta Lynn and Ray Price.

In 2003 he was soloist with Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in Guus Janssen's Violin Concerto and with the WDR Jazz Orchestra in Concerto for Violin and Jazz Orchestra by Bill Dobbins. At Newf York's Lincoln Center he performed in duo with pianists Paul Bley and Muhal Richard Abrams.

He has recorded with Michael Brecker, Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano, and Chris Potter and has played on over 100 recordings in New York City as a soloist in contemporary music and modern jazz.

Feldman has released several albums, including Music for Violin Alone (Tzadik, 1995); Book of Tells (Enja, 2000); What Exit (ECM, 2006 with British pianist John Taylor; To Fly to Steal (Intakt, 2010) with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerry Hemingway; and Oblivia (Tzadik, 2010) with his wife, Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier. In September 2012, he and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty produced the debut album of Scott Tixier. Feldman wrote the liner notes."

-Mark Feldman Website (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Feldman)
1/14/2021

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"One marker of bassist Michael Formanek's creativity and versatility is the range of distinguished musicians of several generations he's worked with. While still a teenager in the 1970s he toured with drummer Tony Williams and saxophonist Joe Henderson; starting in the '80s he played long stints with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch and Freddie Hubbard. (As a callback to those days, Formanek recorded with hardbop pianist Freddie Redd in 2013). The bassist has played a pivotal role on New York's creative jazz scene going back to the '90s when he notably led his own quintet and played in Tim Berne's barnstorming quartet Bloodcount. Nowadays Formanek's in the co-op Thumbscrew with Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.

Formanek is also a composer and leader of various bands. His principal recording and international touring vehicle is his acclaimed quartet with Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums, which records for ECM; 2010's The Rub and Spare Change and 2012's Small Places both earned coveted five-star raves in Down Beat. Formanek writes, and the quartet plays, compositions of great rhythmic sophistication that unfold in a natural sounding way - challenging music the players make sound like lyrical free expression. His occasional groups include the 18-piece all-star Ensemble Kolossus, roping in many New York improvisers he works with. Ensemble Kolossus recorded their first CD of all Formanek originals for the prestigious ECM label in December of 2014. The CD, The Distance was released in February 2016 and in addition to numerous other accolades also received a five-star review in Downbeat!

Formanek's other recordings as leader include Wide Open Spaces and Extended Animation for quintet and Low Profile and Nature of the Beast for seven players (all on Enja), and the solo album Am I Bothering You? (Screwgun). Mirage (Clean Feed) is by the occasional improvising trio of Formanek, tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn. Thumbscrew's 2014 debut is on Cuneiform Records. Michael Formanek has also made dozens of recordings as sideman, for among others Dave Ballou, Tim Berne, Jane Ira Bloom, Dave Burrell, Harold Danko, Marty Ehrlich, Tomas Fujiwara, Gary Thomas and Jack Walrath.

As composer of works for ensembles from duo to mixed jazz and classical orchestra, Michael Formanek has received institutional support from Chamber Music America, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Peabody Conservatory, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. As an educator, Formanek teaches bass and other jazz courses, and leads the Jazz Ensemble at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory."

-Michael Formanek Website (http://www.amibotheringyou.com/bio.html)
1/14/2021

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"One of improvised music's most in-demand guitarists, Mary Halvorson has been active in New York since 2002, following jazz studies at Wesleyan University and the New School. Critics have called her "a singular talent" (Lloyd Sachs, JazzTimes), "NYC's least-predictable improviser" (Howard Mandel, City Arts), "one of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz-or otherwise" (Steve Dollar, Wall Street Journal), and "one of today's most formidable bandleaders" (Francis Davis, Village Voice). The Philadelphia City Paper's Shaun Brady adds, "Halvorson has been steadily reshaping the sound of jazz guitar in recent years with her elastic, sometimes-fluid, sometimes-shredding, wholly unique style."

After three years of study with visionary composer and saxophonist Anthony Braxton, Ms. Halvorson became an active member of several of his bands, including his trio, septet and 12+1tet. To date, she appears on six of Mr. Braxton's recordings. Ms. Halvorson has also performed alongside iconic guitarist Marc Ribot, in his bands Sun Ship and The Young Philadelphians, and with the bassist Trevor Dunn in his Trio-Convulsant. Over the past decade she has worked with such diverse bandleaders as Tim Berne, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tomas Fujiwara, Ingrid Laubrock, Myra Melford, Jason Moran, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey and Mike Reed.

As a bandleader and composer, one of Ms. Halvorson's primary outlets is her longstanding trio, featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith. Since their 2008 debut album, Dragon's Head, the band has been recognized as a rising star jazz band by Downbeat Magazine for five consecutive years. Ms. Halvorson's quintet, which adds trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon to the trio, has released two critically acclaimed albums on the Firehouse 12 label: Saturn Sings and Bending Bridges. Most recently she has added two additional band members-tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and trombonist Jacob Garchik-to form a septet, featured on her 2013 release Illusionary Sea. Ms. Halvorson also co-leads a longstanding chamber-jazz duo with violist Jessica Pavone, the avant-rock band People and the collective ensembles Thumbscrew and Secret Keeper."

-Mary Halvorson Website (http://www.maryhalvorson.com/bio/)
1/14/2021

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Ryan Sawyer is a drummer and percussionist from the USA. He has played with several artists and bands like, Tv On The Radio, At The Drive-In, Scarlet Johanson, Massive Attack, Boredoms (77 & 88 Boadrum), The Mekons, Thurston Moore, among others.He currently is playing with, Stars Like Fleas, Tall Firs, and Eye Contact."

-Discogs (https://www.discogs.com/artist/300910-Ryan-Sawyer)
1/14/2021

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.
track listing:


1. Pedernal 05:44

2. Circular Ruins 09:48

3. R.U.R. 06:03

4. A Night in Gdansk 13:04

5. Northeast Rising Sun 07:14
sample the album:








descriptions, reviews, &c.

""Pedernal" opens with Alcorn's gracefully slithery pedal steel line suggesting a dark, minor blues that's joined in an undulating caress by Formanek's lithe bass. Descending chords introduce the second section as the band steps into the gathering maelstrom, eventually resolving into a beatifically lyrical theme that seems to summon the abiding power of the iconic vista."-Relative Pitch



"Pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn has achieved the enviable feat of commanding her own instrumental niche in the jazz world. Much like Toots Thielemans' harmonica, Gary Versace's accordion or Bela Fleck's banjo, she seems to have a unique role all to herself, at least until her substantial talents eventually spawn a host of imitators. From her beginnings playing traditional country and western in the 1980s, she has branched out considerably, in the last decade forging creative partnerships in the free improvisation and avant-jazz communities, working with a distinguished list of artists that includes Mary Halvorson, Ellery Eskelin, Michael Formanek, Nate Wooley, Joe McPhee and Ken Vandermark, among many others. Capable of crafting scintillating solo statements or generating richly nuanced atmosphere, her astonishing versatility has allowed her to contribute to a vast array of projects. But it is encouraging to see her getting some additional exposure as a leader in her own right, with the elliptical and entrancing Pedernal.

With five of her own compositions in tow, Alcorn is joined on the album by guitarist Halvorson, whose Away With You (Firehouse 12, 2016) was one of the notable releases that raised Alcorn's visibility significantly in the creative jazz world. Frequent collaborator bassist Formanek, drummer Ryan Sawyer and violinist Michael Feldman round out the quintet. The album's opener and title track, "Pedernal," is a gem, with a memorable folk-like melody and expert use of all five musicians, particularly the lyrical talents of Feldman and a charged dialogue between Halvorson and Alcorn, in evoking the wide-open landscape of northern New Mexico and the mesa for which the piece is named. The closer, "Northeast Rising Sun," is similarly engaging, with the band adding some joyful hand-claps to a piece that also seems inspired by Alcorn's folk/country roots, though the tune itself is derived from the Sufi devotional tradition. It also showcases Halvorson's most rangy solo on the record, a characteristically devilish tone-twisting wonder.

The middle three tracks reveal the more oblique side to Alcorn's muse, with more undetermined space and a more elusive feel. "Circular Ruins" paints a multihued sonic vista with impressionistic crests and valleys, and a series of unfolding ideas which offer ample surprises, not the least of which is a punchy collective improvisation with Sawyer's bold forays setting the pace. The jaunty "R.U.R." starts at a brisk clip, but it too opens unstructured possibilities in its second half which rely on the players' spontaneous gestures and subtle exchanges. The longest cut, "A Night in Gdansk," is a languid, expansive track which takes thirteen minutes to develop, with moments of quiet beauty interspersed with austere abstraction. It is the perfect vehicle for Alcorn's distinctive blend of the familiar and the uncanny, and a terrific encapsulation of this stage of her development as a composer."-Troy Dostert, All About Jazz


Get additional information at All About Jazz
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Jazz
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