"Yes, and…Music For Nine Improvisers"
Street Date: June 15, 2018
Release Show: June 30, 2018, Constellation, Chicago
Featuring Geof Bradfield (tenor and soprano saxophone, bass clarinet), Greg Ward (alto saxophone), Anna Webber (flute, bass flute, tenor saxophone), Russ Johnson & Marquis Hill (trumpets), Joel Adams (trombone), Scott Hesse (guitar), Clark Sommers (bass) & Dana Hall (drums/percussion)
On his Delmark debut, Bradfield brings together a stellar ensemble of nine world-class musicians to present an extended suite constructed in the spirit of the legendary improvisational cabaret revue the Compass Players.
Yes, and… takes its name from an improvisational theater game often implemented by the iconic Compass Players. Founded in 1955 in Chicago, the Compass Players were one of the nations first improv theater groups. Radical for its time, the group mainly presented satirical and smart short pieces that were based on a specific framework, or set up, but totally improvised. The Compass Players, and it’s immediate successor Second City, have shaped the comedic landscape in the US perhaps more than any other comedy troupe.
“‘Yes, and . . .’ requires you to believe that what you improvise is building on whatever everyone else is doing – even if the response is ‘Yes, and here’s my contrasting response to that.’ I want to see people making some decisions,” says Bradfield, adding, “that’s what jazz is; that’s how my favorite players approach music. There’s this high level of interactivity that requires constant focus and attention and a depth of shared knowledge” – just as the Compass Players built their sketches from a common pool of references and a common commitment to working completely in the moment. Their improvisational principles, along with the structure of their practice techniques and performances, heavily influenced Bradfield as he composed the music for this project.
In Compass productions, longer, more complex set pieces alternated with the unwritten skits. Accordingly, the album comprises several movements for the entire nonet – “In Flux,” “Impossible Charms,” “Anamneses,” and “Forro Hermeto” – and the interstitial trios that precede them. The longer, more structured pieces benefit from Bradfield’s skills as an arranger with a marvelous ear for color and melody, but they still allow for the soloists to roam within their confines; the shorter pieces, each for a different trio, generally have less preliminary material, and thus provide the flexibility of the original Compass skits.
Yes, and… aptly demonstrates the musical prowess of the assembled musicians as well. Stand out tracks include “Anamneses”, a composition specifically tailored to showcase the trumpet work of Russ Johnson and the intimate, conspiratorial bass flute of Anna Webber. While “Impossible Charms” displays the unmistakable swing of trumpeter Marquis Hill and the throaty tone of trombonist Joel Adams which undergirds most of the ensemble work, “In Flux” clears space for the fluid guitar of Scott Hesse and the potent alto of Greg Ward. “Prelude” exhibits the work of the stand-alone trio Bradfield co-leads with longtime musical partners Clark Sommers and Dana Hall. The acclaimed saxophonist and composer sees “Forro Hermeto”, the concluding movement, as a sort of “dance party, where a couple dances at a time” – the soloists – head to the middle of the floor and strut their moves. Inspired by the unique folkloric jazz of the Brazilian genius Hermeto Pascoal, it inhabits a different milieu from the rest of this music. Collectively, Yes, and…Music For Nine Improvisers has provided the ideal platform for Bradfield to utilise the compass points of another era and another art form to send himself on an entirely new journey.
BIRD IS THE WORM
"While nobody is ever gonna mistake the music of Geof Bradfield for traditional, the roots of jazz have long been at the heart of his recordings and it’s not unusual for the pulse to slip into a familiar old-school cadence. It’s an aspect of his music that has made past recordings so damn enjoyable." Read the full review here.
"...the album alternates between brief trios for different instrument combinations and full ensemble works that allow the improvisational capabilities of his top-notch group to shine." Read the full review here.
"Boasting an impeccable tonal control and range, saxophonist Geof Bradfield hires a sterling cast of musicians to give wings to his seventh album of originals, Yes, and…Music For Nine Improvisers." Read the full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Geof Bradfield's music is fun and playful and gives his chosen partners plenty of opportunities to shine. This is a heady little addition to the long, storied legacy of Chicago jazz." Read the full review here.
RICHARD B. KAMINS
"One can see that this new album is a continuation of all of his studies, his maturity as a composer and arranger, and his desire to continue searching. We who listen closely reap the rewards of his adventurous musical mind." Read the full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"...the collective energy all nine musicians create is a testament to the cohesive spirit Bradfield has generated on this splendid album." Read the full 4.5 star review here.
"Each player's contributions are integral to the whole, whether it be Hesse's omnipresent shadings or the luscious timbres of the reeds and horns, and with a band nine members strong, the album's rich in colour, especially when it features a wealth of orchestral textures." Read the full review here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"There is plenty of improvisational spirit shown by these players and Geof Bradfield is an exceptional composer/arranger and reed man." Read the full review here.
"Geof Bradfield has a strong and muscular tone to his reeds, walking the Coltrane-Rollins tightrope on this satisfyling album with Anna Webber/fl-ts, Greg Ward/as, Russ Johnson-Marquis Hill/tp-fh, Joel Adams/tb, Scott Hesse/g, Clark Sommers/b and Dana Hall/dr, as the artists come and go to create different combinations on these originals." Read the full review here.
"...while we're on comparisons, we could say that Scott Hesse's sound is not far from that of Jim Hall, and Geof Bradfield is close to a soft Pharoah Sanders or a hard Clifford Jordan." Read the full french review here.
JAZZ VIEWS UK
"The longer pieces, which form a suite, are beautifully structured. This is not so surprising given Bradfield’s eclectic approach to music making (given previously recordings that have explored the relationship between jazz and African music or the blues)." Read the full review here.
"Bradfield’s brilliance in leveraging long-term friendships, writing for the individual rather than the instrument (à la Ellington), and knowing when to fill the canvas and where to leave space are apparent throughout." Read the full review here.