Neil Welch: Sleeper (2012)
Sleeper is a quality product from noted Seattle new music and jazz saxophonist Neil Welch, who composed the lone 28-minute title track based on an incident that occurred during the US presence in Iraq. Sans rhythm section, Welch paints a vivid storyline, interspersing microtonal extended notes with deft subtleties and touches upon contemporary classical frameworks. Since the plot is based on a military endeavor, he generates an impassioned and intertwining progression of musical events throughout.
At times listening to this piece is like walking a tightrope, where tension and jubilance attain equal footing. With pumping horns and perhaps a few nods to composer Philip Glass's famed compositional style, based on minimalism and cyclical theme-building forays, Welch's music also features improvisational breakouts. Shifting tides and free-form dialogues are prominent factors contrasting the alternating flows. Towards the finale, the ensemble projects a lighthearted stance via disparate tonalities and sonorous textures, leading to a gushing sense of controlled-chaos tempered by a calming effect.
Sleeper usually moves along a slow to medium-tempo path, shaded with ascending climaxes and seamlessly executed time changes that help shape the course of action amid copious diversions. Semi-structured but sounding more composed then improvised, the artist instills a mood-evoking set of circumstances containing memorable melodies and stark environs. Indeed, this is a superior work of art that reveals additional rewards on subsequent listens.
Track Listing: Sleeper.
Personnel: Neil Welch: tenor and soprano saxophones; Ivan Arteaga, alto and soprano saxophones; Jesse Canterbury: bass clarinet; Vincent LaBelle: trombone; David Balatero: cello; Natalie Hall: cello.
Record Label: Tables & Chairs
Style: Modern Jazz