Matthew Silberman: Questionable Creatures (2012)
The concept of straight-line status quo and normalcy powers plenty of artists along their journey of creation, but saxophonist/composer Matthew Silberman prefers the not-so-normal. The Salvador Dali-esque artwork that accompanies his album, and the population of questionable musical creatures that inhabit his world, are easy-to-read signs that point to a surrealist streak in Silberman's work. But, he isn't an abstract thinker; his music is rooted in rational ideals that just happen to fall outside the boundaries of everyday jazz.
Silberman works with two guitars, bass and drums, which are far more commonplace in rock circles than jazz, as he explores various textural realms and moods. "Ghost Of The Prairie" starts off with '70s hard rock allusions as bassist Christopher Tordini's simple, yet deviously effective bass riff meets up with drummer Tommy Crane's slow, Black Sabbath-derived back beats. However, things take a turn for the unexpected when Silberman's avant, angular melody and gritty solo work come into the picture. Tension builds, fades away, and unexpectedly rises again. He follows this with "Mrs. Heimoff," a quirky tune that conjures thoughts of collaboration between guitarist Bill Frisell and exaggeration-prone film score big-wig Danny Elfman, and "Breathe," which builds on atmospheric thoughts.
Things stumble a bit with "The Battle at Dawn," which doesn't really commit to anything of note, but the outside antics of the title track get things back by driving off the rails a little bit. "Dream Machine" comes to life with a sense of Paul Motian-like uncertainty, eventually moving from ethereal environs to a tenser locale and "The Process" produces some of the most interesting man-to-man encounters on the album. Silberman, his two guitarists (Ryan Ferreira and Greg Ruggiero) and Crane all interact in various combinations as they skirt rhythmic predictability and play off of one another. "The Pharaoh's Tomb" serves as a rocking grand finale, with edgy guitar chords, excitable saxophone runs, and aggressive drums joining forces in an effort to provide an energetic release.
The creatures in Matthew Silberman's mind's eye may be questionable, but his skills as a composer, saxophonist, and builder-of-worlds are never in any doubt during this absorbing, eight-song affair.
Track Listing: Ghost Of The Prairie; Mrs. Heimoff; Breathe; The Battle At Dawn; Questionable Creatures (Writing On The Walls); Dream Machine; The Process; The Pharoah's Tomb.
Personnel: Matthew Silberman: tenor saxophone; Ryan Ferreira: guitar; Greg Ruggiero: guitar; Christopher Tordini: bass; Tommy Crane: drums.
Record Label: DeSoto Sound Factory
Style: Modern Jazz