Contemporary jazz is frequently packed into a neat little box, with straight edges reinforced by convention and thick padding gleaned from expensive academic institutes. Anna Webber has the skill and chutzpah to think outside of that box. Shimmer Wince unleashes seven captivating tracks that refuse to sit still or stagnate. It’s an insistent, gripping record.
Webber has released around 15 albums as leader or co-leader, depending how you add them up. She plays tenor saxophone, flute and baritone flute on this latest record. Adam O’Farrill joins on trumpet and Lesley Mok plays drums, while Mariel Roberts’ cello and Elias Stemeseder’s synthesizer add intriguing colours to the palette. Webber is responsible for the chameleonic compositions.
A multi-instrument drone kicks off proceedings. There’s a metropolis-at-dawn feeling on Swell, with a subway beginning to thrum and city-birds calling across high rooftops. A two-note siren emerges, injecting urgency and adrenaline. The saxophone and trumpet merge, with starts and stops throughout. It’s a thrillingly creative construction – and typical of the album.
Periodicity 1 is less typical, with its introductory noise and heavy use of extended techniques. The record’s most conventional passage of musicality arrives at the three-minute mark, in stark contrast to the track’s avant-garde opening. Later, Webber adds a moment of Latin feeling, albeit with dancing shoes stuck on the wrong feet.
The final track, Shimmer, is a whale-song experience. The synth drones like a church organ. More instruments join the call, implying big spaces where soundwaves zip across densely-packed molecules. The absence of twists and transformations generates the element of surprise here.
Shimmer Wince is a powerful record that explores the possibilities of sound with freshness and fascination. The compositions from Anna Webber are packed with bombshells, revelations and epiphanies. Her latest album exists outside the box. And it thrives there.
Swell; Wince; Fizz; Periodicity 1; Squirmy; Periodicity 2; Shimmer (62.25)
Adam O’Farrill (t); Webber (ts, f, bf); Elias Stemeseder (syn); Mariel Roberts (clo); Lesley Mok (d). Mount Vernon, USA 2023.