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Monday, August 24, 2020

Kris Tiner - In The Ground And Overhead (Epigraph Records, 2020) ****½

By Stef Gijssels

Definitely a winner. It's been a while since we heard from West Coast trumpeter extraordinaire Kris Tiner, reviewed frequently before with MTKG/Empty Cage Quartet or in the Tin/Bag duo with Mike Bagetta on guitar. From what we read and find, he's been active in several other bands, but not as the leader, and that's a shame, because his trumpet technique, his sense of composition, arrangements and improvisation are strong. 

And then this little gem is released. This short album brings 14 miniatures for muted Bb trumpet, totalling approximately 900 seconds. This is very short, but its brevity is inversely proportionate to its quality. 

In 2012, Tiner was the artist in residence at the Montalvo Arts Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. The place, its surroundings and its nature inspired the trumpeter to compose and develop these short pieces. The album comes with the sheet music for each piece's core theme and structure. You can listen to each piece for its own merit, and based on the titles we can expect that each of the 14 miniatures was inspired by something else (white blossoms, coyote, deer, a serpent, a trail, a feeling such as sorrow or stillness), but luckily they all nicely blend together into one long suite of meditative sonic art. 

It takes courage to make music this sensitive. It requires insight and good taste to be this sensitive without falling into the abyss of sentimentalism. It takes strength to reduce the feelings and musings to their bare essence, like a Japanese zen-drawing with only a few lines and lots of white space. Tiner's tone is warm and precise, pure and velvety, subtle and nuanced. It takes a lot of artistry to produce something so personal with such universal value. Yes, it's only 15 minutes long, but you just listen to it twenty times in a row. It's guaranteed to be a fascinating listen, even after the twentieth time. And that's a lot more than can be said about many much longer albums. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp.


Captain Hate said...

Thanks for pointing this release out. The Empty Cage Quartet gave me a lot of pleasurable listens and it's good to know at least one the members is still making challengingly enjoyable music.