The culmination of several years of experimentation and development, Brooklyn-based drummer/composer Sam Ospovat (Brandon Seabrook, Ava Mendoza, Angelica Sanchez, Enablers) announces his debut album Ride Angles (SKIRL). Ride Angles features Ospovat in trio alongside the dynamic and masterful NYC musicians Matt Mitchell (piano) and Kim Cass (bass), with guest appearances by guitarist Brandon Seabrook, alto saxophonist Nick Lyons and vocalist Lorin Benedict.
Ride Angles' ingenious compositions evoke inspired performances from Ospovat's group of virtuoso improvisors, and showcase a bold conception of the possibilities for rhythmic structure and improvisation in a jazz context. Ospovat also develops a dynamic and idiosyncratic electronics setup, wiring his cymbals and drums on select tracks to create ghostly, synth-like sounds, and harness and transform the utterances of his colleagues.
The album's three exclusively trio pieces, “Off the Shelf Self,” ”Beynon’s Bounce,” and “3-Levels” are studies in expanding the basic time feel from a single pulse to an array of harmonically related tempi. As Ospovat leads the trio to explore these “rhythmic registers” and hop amongst them during their improvisations, he cultivates a constantly shifting sonic image to psychedelic effect. The resulting aural hallucination is like a Calder mobile, which in its continual rotation becomes different from every perceptual angle.
“Rancune,” somewhat of an installation one walks into, is hued by Ospovat's subtle yet haunting electronic processing, and warped by the unmistakable vocal stylings of Bay Area-based scat singer Lorin Benedict (Steve Coleman). A ballad with killer voice leading and a version of the Messiaen concept of isorhythm, where the metric and harmonic structures cycle against each other, “Rancune” expands and amplifies the other-worldly atmosphere of the album. The acrobatic and lyrical solo from bassist Kim Cass is a stunning declaration of a new era in upright bass virtuosity, and Benedict's pseudo-linguistic syllables tug at the listener's subconscious and beg for interpretation.
“The Martian Way” and “Trans-Life” are variations on the idea of through-composed grooves set against stable ride cymbal patterns, and feature unforgettable contributions from “NYC's best guitarist” Brandon Seabrook, and legend of the Tristano School, saxophonist Nick Lyons. Lyons’ cutting alto tone on “The Martian Way” evokes the acerbic insistence of Tim Berne or Steve Lehman, yet filtered through a deep, ongoing engagement with the lyrical playing of Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, and Connie Crothers, and Seabrook’s sui generis clusters and blistering tremolo accents bite through repeatedly and reframe the cohesion of the trio with every surprising attack. On “Trans-Life”, Seabrook and Lyons play a haunting rendition of Ospovat’s slow-moving melody and craft a cinematic improvisation which cycles through sensitive melodicism, ambience, and a deep and crooked groove.
Although the pieces on Ride Angles are far from simple, Ospovat’s realization of them, their ends, and their function within the larger landscape is very clear. The gestalt is, without hyperbole, unlike anything happening in the idiom of jazz today. Ospovat and his cohorts present a thought-out and unified aesthetic rich with possibilities, which doesn’t sacrifice a deep, infectious sense of feeling for its rhythmic inventiveness and precision. This is riveting music and a world-opening listening experience, with a cinematic and electrifying cumulative impact.