Sam ospovat

Ride angles out May 2019

Ospovat Trio.jpg

Ride Angles

Released May 3rd 2019 on Skirl Records. Available at Downtown Music Gallery in Lower Manhattan, and

From the liner notes:

Listening to Sam Ospovat’s impressive new work, Ride Angles, is like glimpsing a hidden constellation of shapes and colors in the weightless clarity of early morning, as though the laws of the universe have not fully taken effect. Familiar rhythms and sounds circulate in the air like pieces of an alien jigsaw puzzle with dimensions that defy physics. The music is like a mobile, with agile musicians guiding delicate, suspended objects into new orientations, creating ephemeral sculptures and casting new shadows with each turn. Is this a language without origin? A purity of musical communication newly unearthed?

In fact, Ospovat’s Ride Angles is the culmination of years of musical experimentation and investigation, beginning with his initial exposure to American maverick composers like John Cage and Henry Cowell. The seven pieces on this album represent a rare feat: together, they comprise an equally scientific and artful exploration of the complex metrical and rhythmic relationships once considered to be exclusively the domain of modernist classical composers. Along with his supremely talented core collaborators on this album, pianist Matt Mitchell and bassist Kim Cass (both ubiquitous players on the current New York scene), Ospovat belongs to a cadre of voraciously curious musicians who are incorporating these concepts into the anarchistic, improvisational chaos of the jazz combo with scintillating results. Ride Angles is a confident and elegant treatise in this ambitious approach to musical organization.

For all of their improvisational fluidity, Ospovat’s compositions are highly rigorous. “3-Levels” contains three different simultaneous tempos in a ratio of 6:5:4; each tempo has its own exclusive set of pitches, and the ratio itself is derived from the overtone relationship of the three notes of a major triad. “Rancune,” which features the acrobatic California scat vocalist Lorin Benedict, employs the twelve-tone technique popularized by composer Arnold Schoenberg in the 1920s, in which all pitches of the chromatic scale recur in a fixed order; the tune also makes use of isorhythm, a Renaissance-era compositional device that the French composer Olivier Messiaen resurrected in the first half of the twentieth century. But to dwell on these compositional structures and references, which permeate the entire album, would be to miss many of the work’s broader pleasures. The kinetic polyrhythms that underpin “Off The Shelf Self” and “Beynon’s Bounce,” for instance, are deeply influenced by the rhythmic language of the West African and Haitian diaspora. Likewise, “The Martian Way” and “Translife,” both of which benefit from the contributions of two of New York’s most creative and probing musicians — guitarist Brandon Seabrook and saxophonist Nick Lyons — are based around ancient bell patterns of the diaspora and evoke a similar rhythmic vitality and exuberance.

Yet perhaps the most miraculous thing about this album is the uncanny, nuanced interactions between the musicians. Ospovat, Mitchell, and Cass improvise through the musical architecture with aplomb, nimbly pivoting between rhythmic feels to produce countless moments of surprise and delight. (Cass also contributed to one of the album’s tracks as a co-composer, writing the bassline that pairs with Ospovat’s densely active beat in "Kim's Line"). The result is a collection of seven uniquely mesmerizing pieces of music that are not quite like anything you’ve heard before. And yet Ride Angles feels as much like a vision of what’s possible as it does a fully realized piece of art. It's like looking through a keyhole to discover a strange and wonderful paradigm for how musicians (and human beings) can work, interact, and exist together.

-Andrew Conklin, Stockton, CA

November 2018