GLOBETROTTING You Are Here
(Lil' Pumpkin Records)
by J Hunter
It's a dead heat what is bigger: Jazz' effect on the world, or the world's effect on jazz. The dividends from innumerable overseas tours by jazz giants are still coming in; for instance, four of the artists that knocked my socks off in 2007 - Anat Fort, Roni Ben-Hur, Anat Cohen and Ehud Asherie - are all natives of Israel, bitten by the jazz bug in their home country. But there's more than enough recorded evidence of jazz being influenced by music from around the world. The latest local entry is You Are Here, the debut disc from multi-instrumentalist Steve Gorn, bassist John Davey and percussionist Brian Melick - collectively known as Globetrotting.
There aren't many degrees of separation in this trio: Melick appeared on Davey's disc Sound Bites (Lil' Pumpkin Records, 2006), while Gorn was introduced to Davey's work - and vice versa - by Carleton Clay, the president of the Catskill Conservatory. Gorn and Davey have performed as a trio, but adding Melick to the mix as created a chemical reaction that is as beautiful as it is intense. A portal to places the listener may never have seen is opened, and Globetrotting is beckoning: Step through. What have you got to lose?
Melick's chimes and Gorn's clarinet evokes wind blowing across the desert as Be, Hear, Now opens the disc. The piece's title reminds one of Eats, Shoots, Leaves, but this is not an editing error. If anything, it can be interpreted two ways - either as an invitation (Come into this space. See what can be seen) or as a request (Be alive. Be 'in the moment.' Listen, and hear what you are listening to.). Either way, you close your eyes, feel the heat, and see the caravan
or the camp, or the oasis, or whatever comes to your mind. Whatever the music evokes for you, you know that you're in a new environment, filled with new sounds and experiences.
That feeling is reinforced as Globetrotting unfolds its multi-stop travelogue: Fair Trade is a jumping Latin fiesta, with a protagonist determined to dance through his pain; the Asian influenced Boatman's Song takes you down a peaceful river, past farms and fields and a different way of life; Gorn's bansuri flute on the title track transmits the allure of a woman beckoning you from a doorway on a Middle Eastern street that just might be meaner than it seems; Charakeshi puts you in front of a structure that can't be explained - a pyramid, or an abandoned temple - and lets you solve the riddle. Regardless of the original musical influence or the potential scenario, Globetrotting's message remains the same: This is not what you're used to? Acclimate! And keep your eyes and ears open, because lessons are waiting around every corner!
Gorn's bewitching reeds and flutes set each scene, frequently acting as primary narrator. There's a lovely breathiness to Gorn's woodwinds that gives his sound a feeling of the everyman: The group composition Ububambu conjures a vision of a tribesman playing high, piping flute around the fire as the village gathers for the evening meal.
While Gorn is usually in the foreground, Melick works primarily in the background, and what he does is quite magical, as he embellishes each musical environment until the image is complete: He injects wonderful mystery into Karl Berger's Kafi, and adds a tinge of Africa and Asia to Davey's soul-jazz comp Big Blue.
Davey alternates between solo and foundation, and handles both with equal dexterity. His in-the-clear bowing on Disembodied Souls literally saw through everything, including pretension; conversely, he can grab your attention with a single, sonorous note, and his two-note figure on Udubambu is all the piece needs to move ahead with all appropriate speed.
There You Go revisits the disc's opening statement, taking you back to where you came in. The journey is over, the group seems to be saying. What have you learned? One thing we learn from You Are Here is that Globetrotting's music is a fully-functional, visceral experience that will fill you with joy and wonder. It also reminds us that applying jazz' improvisatory aesthetic to non-Western musical structures can create something unique and beautiful. After all, that's what happened Here.
J HUNTER is a former announcer/producer for radio stations in the Capital Region and the Bay Area, including KSJS/San Jose (where he was Assistant Music Director/Jazz programming), Q104 WQBK/Albany, and WSSV/Saratoga. He has also written music and theatre reviews for the Glens Falls Chronicle. He currently resides in Clifton Park.