Angelica Sanchez Nonet: Nighttime Creatures

Pianist Sanchez has written intricately arranged, delicately phrased and largely atonal pieces for a group including quarter-tone trumpet


Pianist and composer Sanchez’s track record includes work with Wadada Leo Smith and Paul Motian, and in a sense such names are reflective of the music in this programme. While conscious of “the tradition” it takes in developments outside of the post-bop continuum and is all the more refreshing for that. Indeed it’s brought to life by musicians open to liberal interpretation of the jazz cause.

A prime motive for the music, with the exceptions of the frankly gorgeous cover of Duke Ellington’s Lady Of The Lavender Mist and Armando Carvajal’s Tristeza, has been the best part of a year Sanchez spent living in a secluded cabin in upstate New York. That afforded her the chance to witness nights free from light pollution. The results in terms of tonal palette and overall mood are nicely exemplified by Cloud House, where the lack of hurry and bustle are conspicuous and Chris Speed solos so persuasively on tenor sax that I feel the need to check out his work in more depth.

Ringleader seems initially to distil notions of tranquility down to some kind of essence. The pervasive air of sombre reflection is, however, offset by some fractious horn voicings before the music settles down into a regular metre that still deftly sidesteps the obvious and develops in a manner born of collective attitude and deep thinking.

The Ellington piece is a knockout, the work of a band appreciative of the exotic harmonies while restraining the dead hand of reverence. Sanchez’s solo merges with the overall structure but affords us an opportunity to bask in her musical thinking, while it might well be the case that Johnny Hodges wasn’t far from Michael Attias’s thoughts when he put out his quietly compelling solo.

Nighttime Creatures; C.B. The Time Traveller; Cloud House; Astral Light Of Alarid; Lady Of The Lavender Mist; Land Here; Ringleader; Big Weirdo; Wrong Door For Rocket Fuel; Tristeza; Run (79.33)
Thomas Heberer (quarter-tone t); Kenny Warren (c); Michael Attias (as); Chris Speed (ts, cl); Ben Goldberg (contra acl); Sanchez (p, comp); Omar Tamez (g); John Hebert (b); Sam Ospovat (d). 21-22 August 2021. Okraven Audio, Mount Vernon, New York.
Pyroclastic Records PR30