Thursday, August 24, 2023

Alabaster DePlume and Joshua Abram's Natural Information Society at Sunset Tavern & The Neptune Theatre: Sept 6 & 14

Two of the pivotal outfits describing the new jazz sounds of London and Chicago and specifically the artistry of the International Anthem label find themselves at Sunset Tavern and The Neptune Theatre in early September. Gus Fairbairn had his beginnings as Alabaster DePlume in the early 2000s as one of the players around the locus of London's Total Refreshment Centre. The venue enjoyed a recent anthology on the legendary Blue Note, the venerable label capturing "A Complex, Thrilling Moment in a Fast-Expanding Musical Community". The venue and its players are central to the new British jazz scene, as covered in The Guardian's primer to this contemporary body of musicians, "The British Jazz Explosion: Meet the Musicians Rewriting the Rulebook". In the fist of his releases for the International Anthem label, Fairbairn released a gently enveloping suite of instrumentals, "To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol.1". The album stretched over eleven tracks of Fairbairn’s tentative, breathy sax melodies laid over downtempo, atmospheric chord voicings and chamber music compositions. Described in the pages of The Guardian as "The Stress-Busting Jazz of Alabaster DePlume", Fairbairn's latest project, "Gold: Go Forward in the Courage of Your Love", continues and expands upon that emotional ethos and its swooning gently flowing musical surfaces. Recorded over the course of two weeks at Total Refreshment Centre and employing Fairbairn's practice of having different band arrangements playing on each session, the resulting pieces have also been mixed by different producers and employ self-sampling and structural techniques from his prominent label-mate and drummer, Makaya McCraven.

These two artists are among the 21st century body of musicians effectively "Rewriting the Rules of Jazz", who have produced bountiful collaborations on an array of top-notch labels. Most notably releases from Chicago's aforementioned International Anthem, New York's Eremite, and the UK's scene represented again by the Total Refreshment Centre and Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings. Culled from all of these, London's Soul Jazz Records have assembled the most comprehensive overview of this chiaroscuro with their "Kaleidoscope: New Spirits Known & Unknown" compilation, fixating heavily on both the London and Chicago players. Representing a similar locus for the Chicago scene, bassist Joshua Abrams‘ and his large ensemble, Natural Information Society, are joined on his most recent outing "Since Time is Gravity" by Ari Brown, the 80 year old tenor saxophonist and Chicago legend whose work is central to the album. Their release on the Eremite label is the prime meeting of Abrams previous discography of Steve Reich-like trance inducing patterned minimalism and the new addition of a more swooning and fiery saxophone compositions which share a lineage with Charles Mingus' mid-period albums. Touching on these disparate points, "Natural Information Society Discuss the Inspirations Behind 'Since Time is Gravity'", and their amassing a larger ensemble which includes saxophonist Mai Sugimoto, titanic percussionist Hamid Drake, and cornetist Ben LaMar Gay, as "Natural Information Society Celebrates its Idiosyncrasies, Warts and All". A central component to their live incarnation is the environment that they invoke, largely supplied by Abram's wife, artist and musician Lisa Alvarado, and her creations both on and off the stage, "Natural Information Society Make the Stage a Home and Vice Versa".