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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Anna Webber - Shimmer Wince (Intakt, 2023)

By Gary Chapin

Anna Webber is well liked here at FJB, and it’s easy to see why. Her compositions vary per project, but have an intriguing mix of autre jazz and autreclassical aesthetics — along with her own personal fascinations. Shimmer Wince grooves, but it grooves over alluringly repetitive, minimalist-informed charts. She is considered a “central figure in the New York jazz scene,” and her downtown roots are showing.

This quintet sounds bigger than a quintet. It’s only the prescribed five people — Webber on tenor and flutes, Adam O’Farril, trumpet, Mariel Roberts, cello, Elias Stemeseder, synths, and Lesley Mok, drums — but the arrangements, orchestration, and performance create a sense of depth, moment, and theatrics. Storytelling. Specific instruments are used to amplify this. The cello, for example, shapes the envelope of the sound in a unique way, as does the synth. But the voice is the ensemble. There’s almost an element of sound design to the compositions, here. The group creates an ecosystem with all the implied structure, process, and mutuality. The instruments are tiered and stacked so that the ensemble floats through its subsets over time, but never stops laying ground. The forest-trees relationship is very cool. Every individual line is worth focusing on, but they disappear into the whole and we only gain by their confluence.

The liner notes tell us that these are explorations in just intonation, something I find very interesting in the abstract (really, I’ve read books about temperaments), but I have a hard time pointing to any portion of the music and saying, “There it is!” But the outcome speaks for itself. As with Pauline Oliveros — another just intonation advocate — Webber draws you in with an ensemble that is somewhat more harmonious than you find in nature, except that she’s using “natural” tuning relationships to achieve it.