soNu: Sounds From the Source (2004)
The new Nine Winds release by soNu presents the eclectic band as a cultural database that, through group improvisation and subtle compositional cues, manages to incorporate serialism, post-serialism, Mexican folkloric music, non-Western classical music, Norwegian folk song, Native American music, rock, future electronics, and hip hop into its musings. Nina Sun Eidsheim sings and interjects electronics; Phil Curtis also contributes electronics. Alan Lechusza plays woodwinds, and Gustavo Aguilar handles percussion. All four compose and have extensive resumes in and out of academia and free jazz.
The recording opens with the first of three covers of AACM members’ compositions, Wadada Leo Smith’s “The Lady of the Dark Sonnets/Mississippi Delta.” Curtis sends electro bolts squealing through the studio, soon joined by Lechusza on bass sax. The thick earthy tone contrasts nicely with the shifty synth smears. Eidsheim sings the tricky melody operatically, Curtis’s shimmery environment around her. Aguilar adds soft clatterings. Nine Winds CEO Vinny Golia joins the ensemble for “Rebound.” Lechusza plays Native American flute with Aguilar’s subtle wind chimes. Eidshem improvises processed vocals over metallic electric rumblings, and Aguilar’s loose drum set stampedes with the dark synthesizer tones. After Lechusza’s vivid trips on wood flute, Golia sweeps through on C-flute.
Anthony Braxton’s Composition Nr.287+98a sends Lechusza flying on alto, slowing for the composed duet with Eidshem. Curtis handles the aviation from his keyboard, Aguilar dropping lag time beats. Eidshem treats her vocals with Curtis’ sci-fi sounds throbbing.
Industrial sounds and held tone vocals announce George Lewis’ “Players.” Throughout the piece, players speak to one another, announcing the next segment (“Gustavo, play me,” “Nina, sing something nice” “Ensemble, please join me in a very very loud and furious improvisation”). Lechusza goes long on clarinet as someone effectively riffs on toy piano. Aguilar and Lechusza play a brief duet, before processed vocals and sampled noise take over. The bass sax holds a tone while quick synth spray hits a serene kalimba. Lechusza returns to clarinet, this time solo. “Sound On Sound for Roscoe Mitchell” could be a remix dance hit for Nine Winds. Arash Haile’s hip hop-inspired vocal finds a niche in the band’s ability to face the funk, and deconstruct the funk. Curtis continues flooding the track with roiling sound; Eidshem improvises and occasionally returns to “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” Lechusza brings back the rhythm on bass sax, with Aguilar following.
With each member of the quartet bringing a wealth of aural information, SoNu have realized a multi-culti vision rich in texture and imagination.
Track Listing: The Lady of the Dark Sonnets/Mississippi Delta; Rebound; Composition Nr. 287+98a; Players; Sound on Sound for Roscoe Mitchell.
Personnel: Alan Lechusza, woodwinds; Gustavo Aguilar, percussion; Nina Eidsheim, vocals, electronics; Phil Curtis, electronics.