Barnstorming and Rainy Day Dreaming

Wayne Horvitz (left) with Sweeter Than The Day.

GROOVING, THINKING AT THE BARN: Seattle-based and world-traveling keyboardist/bandleader/composer Wayne Horvitz is a longtime member of the “jazz musicians deserving wider recognition” club. It’s not that Horvitz isn’t solidly connected. His resume goes back to the ’80s, and includes membership in John Zorn‘s Naked City, music made with Bill Frisell, work on New York’s “downtown” scene, and myriad projects over the years, ranging from chamber jazz to saucy, brainy “party bands” such as The President, Zony Mash, and Sweeter Than The Day. The latter band is headed down the coast on a tour, and will make a special stop tonight (March 6) at “The Barn,” Jennifer Terran’s reportedly magical home concert hang zone (for directions/reservations, SBSecretConcerts.com).

Sweeter Than The Day, as heard on the brand-new album A Walk in the Dark, is a grooving and thoughtful unit, and the band features guitarist Timothy Young, bassist Keith Lowe, and drummer Eric Eagle, all of whom get what Horvitz is about. That’s actually tricky, because Horvitz likes to write catchy numbers that appear to be more normal than they are, and are spiced up by notes, chords, and song structures that have been pushed into unexpected places.

MUSIC FOR A PROVERBIAL RAINY DAY: The rainy season may have hit the road, but the rainy day ambience of reflection and slinking away from the real world can be an interior state, accessible with the help of the right mental additives-of the musical sort. And speaking of ambience, one of the tastier instrumental releases of the moment is a two-disc set from Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, Beyond Even (1992-2006, Opal). We can’t listen to this soothing-yet-not-edgeless music without feeling the gentle tug of historical context and remembering that Fripp and Eno’s hypnotic experiments of the late ’70s launched several subgenres of instrumental music that continue to influence today’s electronic, ambient, trip hop, and what-have-you.

Using guitarist Fripp’s tape loop-happy “frippertronics” and electronics tinkerer Eno’s then-new “ambient music” concept-“music as ignorable as it is interesting”-the pair teased and pleased our senses at a time when the dreaded New Age music was threatening to dumb down a generation. The pair’s beautifully enigmatic tracks on this compilation, quietly recorded in back rooms and subterranean byways over a recent 14-year period, hum with a cooling, objective charm. While Beyond Even doesn’t have the fresh visionary impact of the original ambient music by Fripp and Eno, the sounds on it still creep around the room and into your brain without demanding that you decode them or place them in a box.

On another rainy day music front, Alaskan composer John Luther Adams (no relation to the other composer John Adams) makes his own kind of music, creating expansive and slow-brewing sonic places with echoes of Minimalism and Ambient. Adams has his own side entry into existing “isms,” evoking the mystery and majesty of nature as much as he dwells in a purely musical realm. On his recent release red arc/blue veil (Cold Blue), four intriguing pieces combine pianists and percussionists-two each-to swell and recede and encircle harmonic areas. Happy hypnosis is the upshot.

Cold Blue, a fascinating new music label based in Los Angeles, revived itself five years ago, after a long winter’s nap following the ’70s and ’80s vinyl period. Run by Jim Fox, himself a fine composer with an appreciation for the glory of space and a tendency to teach notes how to swim in it, Code Blue is building up a consistent catalogue, with goods by the likes of Chas Smith (pedal steel and sound sculptures), former Santa Barbaran Daniel Lentz, Minimalist pioneer Charlemagne Palestine, critic/composer Kyle Gann, and others who live happily in the cracks of established “serious music” corners.

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