Improvisational jazz doesn’t usually sit well with me. Its unpredictability and lack of concrete structure stands counter to my subconsciously rigid definitions what music should sound like. Of course, inferring something as shortsightedly idiotic as the idea that great music should sound like anything is grounds for being burned at the stake, so I apologize for that. Luckily, in Rachel Brotman‘s debut EP, improvisational jazz is paired with her beautiful vocal caress tiptoeing along subtle, strangely riveting melodies. It brings the structure to the chaos that I love so much. And just like that, my preconceptions dissolve like salt in water.
Anecdote attempts a fusion of sorts, and pulls it off rather well. While pieces like the title track and “Two Doves” are what I tend to think of as attention grabbers (due to an emphasis on their lovely melodies), the remainder of the EP sits in a somewhat experimental zone. The improvisational nature of “Clever” specifically sets the EP in a league of its own, but at the same time will likely turn off those listeners without the desire to dabble in the unfamiliar. While I don’t claim to know much about jazz or soul, I feel that Rachel’s exploratory mindset is what puts this EP a step ahead.
Along with the improvisational nature of the recordings, my favorite piece ends up being the title track, if not for its ability to surprise over and over again. Time signature changes make the song what it is, and much like On An On from Syd Arthur, they’ll provide my mind with enough to feast on in the future, when I discover this gem for a second time.
Instrumentally, the EP is pleasantly varied, but doesn’t step outside the bounds of its soulful jazz confines. Nonetheless, the players do rather well within their constraints.
Andrew Sheron from the venerable Everyman of Parts makes an instrumental appearance on the closing track “Only“. He also produced and mixed the album, and only after Rachel had mentioned it to me, did I sheepishly realize that the album indeed evokes that Sheron-esque feel. Hopefully the relationship continues, because I can only predict more high quality releases from Rachel with Andrew by her side.
Sounds like: The Bad Plus, Feist, Everyman of Parts
Stand out tracks:
Take a listen to my home-brewed instrumental/indietronic album
"The Past Is a Story We Tell Ourselves"
I'm told that it sounds like The Album Leaf, Balmorhea, and Emancipator.