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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Patricia Brennan - More Touch (Pyroclastic, 2022)

By Paul Acquaro

At a point during the track 'Space for Hour' on vibraphonist Patricia Brennan's More Touch, I was pretty sure I heard guitarist Mary Halvorson's patented pitch bends. However, a quick glance at the album credits pointed out that this was actually coming from Brennan's set-up.

Originally from Mexico, Brennan appeared on the New York scene in recently via studying in Philadelphia. Last year she released her debut solo album Maquishti on Valley of Search records and has been playing with Halvorson's recent Amaryllis group and a host of others, including bassist Michael Formanek, pianist Matt Mitchell, drummer Tomas Fujiwara and the Webber/Morris big band. So, it makes perfect sense that the spirit of others seem to float gently through her music, which itself is an exploratory mix of strong compositions and improvisation.

The vibraphone is a wonderful instrument that certainly has carved out a place in jazz's many forms - of course one can point to Gary Burton who fused jazz, rock, and country elements into an influential body of work, or Jason Adasiewicz whose vibraphone playing works so nicely with Peter Broetzmann, as well as, say, Christopher Dell whose work with Christian Lillinger and Jonas Westergaard refactors 'jazz' into post-structuralist sculptures*. Brennan's work here with drummer Marcus Gilmore on drums, Mauricio Herrera on percussion, and Kim Cass on bass, shows yet another way that the vibraphone is a living and changing instrument. Her tonal pallet is expansive in part due to the electronics she employs as well as to the roots of her musical experience (which Brennan mentions in her liner notes, includes Afro-Cuban rhythms, folk, rock and classical).

The opening track, 'Unquiet Respect' begins with strong drum and percussion groove. There is a pause, then Brennan's vibes and Cass' bass come in with a jerking melody. The spikey tones and sharp rhythm wastes no time in showing off the musical incisiveness that ungirds the album. In the middle of the sequence, 'Square Bimagic' is rife with strong Latin rhythmic undertones, but also odd metered patterns and repetitive motives that gain in momentum and build tension. On the other hand, 'Convergences' provides a startling contrast with its spacious and exploratory approach. It is however quite dark, the percussion holds back at the start, giving more room to electronic blips and suspended vibraphone chords, and finally ended in a eddy of musical colors.

More Touch is a vibrant, expressive album that is immediately captivating and keeps offering up more on repeated listening.

*Instead of me continuing with a list of vibraphonists, that will be woefully incomplete, check out a slightly better one here.