Quinsin Nachoff: Stars And Constellations

Canadian saxophonist Nachoff convinces as a Rollins/Shorter hard-bopper but his compositions extend into classical and electronic music


Canadian saxophonist and composer Nachoff could easily garner acclaim as a dashing post-Rollins and Shorter stylist, but I get the feeling that that wouldn’t be enough. His ambitious long-form compositions often take inspiration from his other great passion in life, science, and rather than walking a strict jazz beat he traverses the boundaries of jazz, classical and electronic musics.

Stars And Constellations marks the welcome return of his stellar “Ethereal Trio”, and the format is ostensibly a return to his 2006 Songlines debut, Magic Numbers. Yet while the earlier set placed the strings in a subordinate role to the trio, this time around they operate as equals. Whether framing Nachoff’s complex compositional architectures or providing real-time commentary on the trio’s free-wheeling to and fro, they’re integral to the action.

As you’d expect from a set that draws its chief inspiration from ancient astrological myths, the music isn’t short of drama. Scorpio opens with a volley of rubato pizzicato-string exchanges, its focus gradually tightening as Nachoff launches into a long and beautifully measured solo. Helias is uniquely placed as a bridge between the trio and the strings, and typically assertive he is always at the helm as the ensemble moves through alternating passages of abstraction, groove and swing-time.

Nachoff’s plaintive tenor never strays far from the narrative arc on Pendulum, a soft-focus chamber piece enlivened by two surprisingly conversational string quartets. Sagittarius, meanwhile, is another sprawling 20-minute odyssey, where the rapid turnover of ideas often borders on the giddying. You can almost visualise the flying arrows as Nachoff’s ensemble do battle with the mythical scorpion, but even without this contextualisation it is a mightily impressive piece.

A characteristically bold and dazzlingly eloquent work, Stars And Constellations is a worthy addition to Nachoff’s unique discography.

Stars And Constellations: Scorpio; Pendulum; Stars And Constellations: Sagittarius (52.40)
Nachoff (ts) with Mark Helias (b); Dan Weiss (d); The Bergamot Quartet conducted by Matt Holman, and on (2) The Rhythm Method String Quartet. New York, 20-22 December 2022.
Adyhâropa Records – ÂR00040