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Monday, July 11, 2022

Travis Laplante -Wild Tapestry (Out Of Your Head Records, 2022)

By Nick Ostrum

Wild Tapestry is a commissioned work, composed by saxophonist Travis Laplante and based on Miles Davis’ On the Corner, which itself was part homage to Karlheinz Stockhausen. It was recorded live at The Yellow Barn Music Festival in 2021 with the following line-up: Antonina Styczen on flute, Ansel Norris on trumpet, Oliver Barrett on trombone, Steve Mackey on electric guitar, Charles Overton on harp, Marcus Elliot Gaved on acoustic bass, Eduardo Leandro and Matthew Overbay on percussion and Laplante on saxophone.

The result is a short masterpiece. It starts with a windy huff, as if clearing the air or opening to some special, transmundane space. Then, a ginger flute prances atop a rhythm section immaculately playing in step. Next come the horns providing a long tonal backdrop and allowing the flute, followed by an accompanying sax to explore further beyond the melody. After a few minutes, the piece converges on itself and, with the addition of harp and some dreamy guitar, starts afresh, slowly unfolding into a bucolic landscape. The piece soars for a few moments and then soporific again. This is as much modern as it is neoromantic; it is third stream for the contemporary. It has direction but focuses more on classical tropes of welling orchestral harmonics, glittering palpitating motifs and movements than energy release or typical head-solo constructions. Just listen to the jostling extended passage about halfway through, which beautifully blends bent tones and jazz inclined riffing with sharp neoclassical trumpet lines, then falls into a polyrhythmic dance number. 
About three quarters of the way through, the piece opens into a majestic and moving moment of ascension. Without warning, however, this section abruptly breaks into clucks and fragmented variations on the melody, as if the dream, or the sacred moment, is shattering, but still fighting for existence. That passage concludes as the piece began, but with a longer, more contemplative section of huffs and hisses and an entrancing harp, which gently dispels the fantasy, while hinting that that other idyllic world might actually persist in some form even after it has fallen out of perception. This music stays with you. 

Aesthetically, Wild Tapestries reminds me more of Gil Evans’ Miles Davis arrangements and Markus Stockhausen’s Eternal Voyage than the trippy funk of On the Corner or Stockhausen the Elder’s sometimes inscrutable compositions. Still, I do hear echoes of the fusion Miles and Stockhausen the elder in the transitions and the alternately danceable and discordant moments. It is, after all, an homage rather than reproduction. And it is a transcendent one at that.

Wild Tapestry is available as CD, download and a digitized score.