Novelty intended to be taken seriously is the subject of this album: the reinvention of Gregorian chant by musicians playing instruments not normally associated with jazz but steering pre-polyphony towards it.
Cynics might feel that it’s not so much a refashioning – or even fusion – as an obfuscation. The power and solemnity of chant lies in its lack of adornment by harmony and counterpoint. It’s stark, and its curvature echoes the shape and ascending vaults of a cathedral. These reworkings in a recording studio reduce it to mere vehicle.
So forget the religious house and the spiritual heights. Bassist Trinidad’s ethos refers to a 17th century belief that “beyond borders we discover the will of God”. Applied to the reimaginings of chant and the need to break down our tribal barriers in the interests of social harmony, it’s all worthy and unarguable.
The quintet seems nonetheless locked into modal-like forms and musical cultures above which the aesthetic compass, seeking lively jazz content, oscillates, coming to rest only when the solos begin to soar, as on the final track. That said, the music is commandingly performed.
Sinite Parvulos; Beatus Quem Elegisti; Dispersit Dedit Pauperibus; Venite Filii; Qui Timent; Nolite Diligere; Timeat Eum; Qui Recerit (39.22)
Trinidad (b); Alex Hand Miller (g, tambura); Neelamjit Dhillon (as, bansuri, pc); Mario Salomon (pc); Colin Hogan (acc, melodica). Oakland, California, 3-5 June 2018.
Iridium IRK 2018 01