Lucid Culture


Translucent, Ambitious Environmentally-Themed Jazz Comes to Long Island City

One of the summer’s more intriguing outdoor shows is in a couple of days, on July 24 at 7 PM at Culture Lab in Long Island City where saxophonist Joseph Herbst’s Ghost in the Mirror large ensemble teams up with the adventurous string players in Quartet Davis for an ambitious, environmentally-themed night of symphonic jazz. Herbst’s new album This is Our Environment – which is every bit as ambitious – is streaming at Bandcamp.

Herbst’s colorful compositions here typically follow a circular template, airy calm bookending an endless series of unexpected thematic shifts. This is not music for people who need predictable verse/chorus patterns but it sure is catchy.

The first number, They Say There Are Beautiful Trees sets the stage. A catchy, loopy Luther S. Allison piano phrase, then Liany Mateo’s murky bowed bass lay the groundwork, then brighter sax/trumpet layers harmonize with Aubrey Johnson’s reflecting-pool vocalese. A churning bass solo sets up a triumphant coda from the bandleader before the sextet bring it full circle.

Poet Dasan Ahanu casts Momma Nature as somebody who gives us tough love, Allison and drummer Zach McKinney providing a thoughtful backdrop. Guitarist Peter Martin takes over the loopily insistent intro to Solastalgia, Herbst and trumpeter Evan Taylor wafting into an edgy conversation before joining harmonies in a bright, crescendoing theme spiced with clever piano flourishes. A bitingly modal rise sets off a searing interlude with Martin and the bandleader at gale force; Johnson steps in as voice of reason at the end.

Cynthia ‘THiA’ Sharpe takes over the mic for a second environmentalist parable, Mama E. The group follow with Is This My Fault?, a lush, sweeping tune anchored by a subtle waterwheeling piano riff, then they take it in a calmly drifting direction as the rhythm shifts in and out of waltz time. Martin builds a spare, pensive solo to an icepick intensity as Allison and McKinney lash the shoreline behind him.

Yexandra ‘Yex’ Diaz flexes her lyrical chops in over Allison’s stern lefthand riffage in the intro and outro to Makes No Cents, the band again in and out of 3/4 with Johnson leading the crystalline harmonies. Martin’s foreshadowing riffage underpins a sailing, triumphant Taylor solo; they wind it up with turbulence followed by an enveloping mist.

Johnson returns on vocals for Iron Eyes, a call for unity that builds to an acerbic series of exchanges over a low-key clave, Martin’s grittily psychedelic Rhodes piano receding for Taylor to brighten the mood.

Poet RaShad Eas contributes a meditation on posterity as the Rhodes echoes behind him, then the band leap into Estrange Us, brassily emphatically syncopation dipping to a brief, eerie lull before Herbst pulls the band back in. Martin and then the bandleader fuel an energetic, expectant peak.

Eas delivers a couple of jazz-poetry pieces before the conclusion, Visions of Freedom, a cheerily harmonized, kinetic tune. It’s the album’s most trad postbop number, Herbst and Taylor resonantly and judiciously choosing their spots.

Sophisticated as this music is, and as admirable as Herbst’s environmental focus may be, the rhetoric on the Bandcamp page veers disturbingly close to dystopic World Economic Forum territory. Yes, let’s stop setting stuff onfire, let’s find ways not to burn fossil fuels, let’s clean up our waterways. But let’s not get carried away and shut down all the drilling, the refineries and the pipelines before we have viable substitutes! Crashing the economy in the name of global warming – which is doing a 180 as you read this – is an awfully easy way to starve a whole lot of people to death.


July 22, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment