The New Days Bends Light
Release Date: March 31, 2023
The New Days Bends Light is the new recording from Erica Senguine|Shon Baker Orchestra. Since 2011, ensemble co-founders Seguine and Baker have maintained a visceral grasp of singularity through their shared compositional ingenuity and earnest comprehension of sound as energy. In the populous and ever-growing contemporary big band jazz scene, Erica Seguine|Shon Baker Orchestra distinguishes itself as an astute harmonic force with a boundless ability to transpose emotions and experiences within highly nuanced and melodic sonic atmospheres.
Seven acute arrangements make up The New Day Bends Light, each grappling with an array of intimate and enthralling human experiences that inspire and heal listeners. “Each composition on this album is an inner world we invite you to immerse yourself in: some joyous, some into areas considered ‘taboo’ in the real world or psychological places you may actively avoid, while others invite you to take perspective, to make meaning out of murkiness, and hopefully, to find some messy form of healing,” the collaborators share.
Despite its stylistic variety from the rest of the album, “Reel” sets a fitting precedent for a recording shaped by optimism and acceptance. The album opener takes off with a joyous big band treatment of Celtic music. This combination of sounds was derived from a serendipitous encounter Seguine had some years prior in Black Mountain, North Carolina. After impulsively purchasing a hand-made, hammered dulcimer from a Celtic instrument shop, Seguine became galvanized by Celtic tunes, later attending Celtic music sessions and eventually purchasing a tin whistle. Jubilant contributions from guitarist Eric Burns and special guest violinist Meg Okura elevate feelings of delight and promise on the opening composition.
The contrastingly gentle “States” follows, offering an introspective aura composed by Baker. Reflecting the transitional period in which it was written, the arrangement balances Baker’s external and internal worlds. “I spent at least a month casually playing the main melodic statement on the piano before composing the remainder of the piece. The process beyond that was very much intuitive as I do not recall composing most of it,” Baker comments.
Exploring the fine line between the real and imaginary, “Tangoing with Delusion” represents a battle of the mind: one that obsessively chases pleasure and love yet inevitably spirals into delusion. Seguine likens such a phenomena to the passionate tango dance characterized by a repetitive embrace and repel. Trumpeter John Lake embodies this mischievous and maddening side of the journey, which is temporarily balanced by rational contributions from Ben Kono on alto saxophone. This composure does not last long. As the arrangement progresses, Kono’s alto increasingly relishes in turbulence. “I truly believe a lot of great art follows the artist’s path through the transformation of being ‘stuck’ in something, to finding meaning and a bird’s-eye-view of the situation,” Seguine adds.
Borrowed from a dynamic vision Baker had some years back, “In Dreams” carries cinematic and cathartic qualities. Influenced by a dream where the protagonist Baker could not speak, the composition is a period of rumination where listeners are suspended into a realm that begins with terror and ends in peace. These sensations are recreated throughout, particularly by way of Quinsin Nachoff’s gripping tenor saxophone solo and later Nick Grinder’s on trombone, which symbolizes a semblance of peace and acceptance within the unresolved.
“Ose Shalom” translates in English to: “May the one who makes peace in high places make peace for us and for all of Israel. And let us say: Amen.” Arranged in 2018, Seguine used the well-known Hebrew prayer as she grappled with her religious upbringing and found beauty beyond category or dogma. Noting that much of her healing involved non-verbal communication, Seguine adopts the power of chanting on this arrangement, providing space for the band to experience several variations of the “chant.” Among an abundance of masterful and hypnotic instrumentation on this track, a trombone solo from Kalia Vandever paves way for a trance-inducing rhythm section performance. “As someone who is often more enthralled with the tone and shape of language than meaning, I’m not as focused on words or lyrics when listening to music. But the meaning of the Hebrew text, originally from the Kaddish prayer, is poignant, and something I enjoy being reminded of,” Seguine adds.
Seguine calls “…and the Tire Swing Keeps Spinning…” her most autobiographical composition to date. Confronting the delicate subject of mental health, the tune employs the tire swing as a motif, a fixed visual in Seguine’s imagination that portrays a lost sense of composure. A 12-tone row introduced on piano right from the start of the piece morphs over the course of ten minutes, springing across feelings of innocence, uncertainty and fear, loneliness, rage and dissociation.
Title track “The New Day Bends Light” closes the daring enterprise. The composition was majorly inspired by a poem Baker had written several months prior amid several emotionally-taxing life experiences. Scott Reeves’ deeply meditative alto flugelhorn solo intensifies Baker’s sensation of deep introspection. That fervor is repurposed in a new and more tranquil space prompted by pianist Carmen Staaf and drummer Paolo Cantarella before vocalist Tammy Scheffer recites Baker’s very poem in the final minutes. This verbal gesture instigates the unyielding spirit and imagination that these two composers innately infuse their repertoire with. As Scheffer sensitively recites “in shadows // we shall not succumb,” at the close, one cannot help but to lose sight of what may have been dull beforehand, and instead discern a feeling that is both safe, familiar and impressively lucid.