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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Secret People - Secret People (Out of Your Head Records, 2022)

By Lee Rice Epstein

The Brooklyn and Richmond-based Out of Your Head Records, founded by bassist Adam Hopkins in 2018, has quickly become something of a playground for like-minded, polymath experimentalists. Altoist Nathaniel Morgan, guitarist Dustin Carlson, and drummer Kate Gentile appeared on record together for Carlson’s OOYH debut, Air Ceremony. That one featured a lush septet, and Secret People finds them contracting into a sparkling trio.

Similar to Dan Rosenboom, Jake Vossler, and Tina Taymond’s Trio Subliminal, there is a real collaborative drive behind Secret People’s music: unlike a de facto democratic structure—where a single dominant leader occasionally gives voice to fellow group members—Morgan, Carlson, and Gentile seem to operate on fully equal footing. Each track bears strong marks of the players’ signature sounds: Gentile ties threads of jazz, funk, and rockabilly into addictive polyrhythms, Carlson punctuating lyrical Frisell-like sections with shades of No Wave and shoegaze, and Morgan playing a series of astonishingly clear, jumpy, unbroken lines.

Morgan’s alto tears the roof off on the opening to “Peephole,” alternately dueling and syncing with Carlson, as Gentile rides a cymbal-heavy intro, soon skittering off into a spacious group improvisation. On the surface there’s nothing to necessarily suggest Art Ensemble of Chicago or fusion trios like Tony Williams Lifetime, but the searing groove on “legitimate perseverance,” the laid-back blues of “U,” and pointillist, percussive interlude on “swamp gaze” all hint at some of Secret People’s bedfellows.

If there’s any secret sauce to be found here, it’s arguably Morgan in the mixer’s chair. He previously mixed and mastered a number of Free Jazz Blog favorites, including the Webber/Morris Big Band’s Both Are True, Devin Gray’s RelativE ResonancE, and both Anna Webber’s Clockwise and Idiom (he also played on that album’s second half). Morgan’s albums have a typically deep depth of sound, instruments sound bright and lively. Carlson’s guitar has plenty of edge and bite, and there’s ample space for Gentile’s percussion and vibraphone to echo and fade. Much like Webber’s two Pi albums, nothing gets lost, and not a moment is wasted: Secret People is a nonstop series of addictive tunes and jaw-droppingly impressive solos. Highly recommended for summer days and summer nights, rooftop barbeques and beach bonfires, and all points in between.

Available on Bandcamp


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! Especially appreciate you big upping Nathaniel, he a lot of peoples secret weapon (person;)

cifelius said...

Nice sound, at first they reminded me at Everyman Band