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Friday, January 27, 2017

Nathan Hubbard/Skeleton Key Orchestra - Furiously Dreaming (Orenda Records, 2016) ****

What better way to end a week of big band reviews than with a two-disc release featuring a total of 49 musicians? Californian drummer and composer, Nathan Hubbard and his Skeleton Key Orchestra's Furiously Dreaming is a sprawling mixture that features in all 49 musicians and encompasses many styles and approaches over its two hours of playtime. It's a lot to take in, and the breadth of musical styles is, well, breathtaking. Picking just a couple tracks to talk about hopefully is enough for a good introduction.

The opening track, 'Crows on the Roof', begins with a mash-up of Crimsonesque power and Soft-Machine sax work, which eventually leads to a mix of electric guitars, electronically processed percussion, and reed and horn sections revelling in juicy counter melodies -- by which all I really mean to say is that it is pretty damn intense! There is even a spoken word passage lending an air of intrigue and mystery. The second track, ‘Mirror Forget’, is more a free playing session. Accompanied by a chattering electric guitar that seems to bind the group together, they rise and fall in swells of large group improvisation and smaller improvising units. The follow-up, “sleepsdreamsilence’ is an abrupt change of pace, in which a string section creates a lush, tense, soundtrack like atmosphere, just right for a spoken word passage delivered by Roger Aplon and Sister Rez. Finally (for this review), title track 'Furiously Dreaming' begins as an angular piece - guitar, piano, drums and strings scratch, skitter, and pluck but ends with a composed melody underscored by a chorus of voices.

There is a lot more to hear, as the album is a showcase of Hubbard's expansive musical concepts. The eight tracks of the album are a diverse set that was recorded over the space of three years (2007 - 2010). While a mix of styles, each generously portioned track stands on its own. It's a really interesting recording that beckons for repeat listens, and I've only just begun!

For a full list of the musician's, please see here.

To listen, click play!


Colin Green said...

An excellent week of reviews, with plenty to explore

Martin Schray said...

Lots of great music, lots of very good writing.
Thanks, Paul and Lee.