Real talk, I love all kinds of music, including jazz. Talking about jazz, however, is for me something like sending a child riding a lamb to deal with a horde of sentient werewolves. I was doing a pretty good job of avoiding the topic altogether and listening to jazz on my own time (one of my favorite things a friend told me is that "When I listen to jazz, that's all I hear: jazz."). I knew one day I would have to review a jazz album, but I never knew it would be this soon. Enter Circular Expansion Volume I, a long, meditative and slightly off-putting release by a collective of skilled jazz enthusiasts.
KREation is headed by Baltimore-native saxophonist and composer Kevin Robinson, who says the group performs as a 12-piece band to quartets, trios, duos and solos and whatever else is in between. Circular Expansion Volume I kicks off a three-volume plan to release music that focuses on cyclical movement, symmetry and dualities. Robinson goes on to say that, "The music is improvised [and] utilizes structures based on intervallic expansion and contraction." I have no idea what he means, but I feel like I know what he's talking about during certain moments within the Movements, of which the album is divided up into 11 (the last four are live performances). The focus of most of them is Robinson's autumnal saxophone playing, though he switches among clarinet, bass clarinet and soprano sax. Another distinctive player is Tony Gennaro on percussion and marimba duties, and his minimalistic beats sound delicate but are able to withstand the harder rhythms of the other players in the band, who are Ingrid Lee on piano, Evan Jiroudek on drums and Caroline Cirone on bass. Mario Luna sound-engineered the album and does a fantastic job of allowing the musicians equal amounts of texture for however long they weave their sounds in a tapestry of loneliness and after-hours sensibilities. Movement IV is my favorite track, with sultry marimba and gentle percussion while Robinson sets up his sax's notes to create pockets of dry drones for the listener.
Most of the Movements have that odd quality where it feels like the tracks could collapse at any moment but are held together through light harmonies and durable improvisation with no clear beginning or end. Some are downright creepy with their sparse distribution of notes while others gently coax the listener into a midnight lull. The number I've given this record is a numerical approximation of my feelings while listening to it. This could be the worst jazz record in the world and I wouldn't know it, but I felt like these guys know what they're doing. There's a bunch of empty space that they fill up with a tough and pleasing sound that makes me feel like I'm an ex-gangster smoking his last cigarette, which is always a cool feeling. Give them a listen and see how you feel.
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