Exposé Online banner

Empirical — Connection
(Cuneiform Rune 416, 2016, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2016-07-18

Connection Cover art

The vibraphone is an instrument with a distinctive sound that seems to conjure up certain moods. It’s generally bright and happy, even when playing the blues, though at times can lean a little towards eerie or spooky. Without electronic manipulation, it just has a clean sound that seems cheerful. It has a long history in jazz, of course, but when it comes to the kind of boundary-pushing creative jazz I prefer, there aren’t a lot of vibes players out there. There is more to Empirical than just the vibes, but given that bass, drums, and sax are pretty standard fare, it’s the vibes that stand out. When it comes to jazz on Cuneiform, Empirical is more in the realm of Claudia Quintet than Mujician or Soft Machine, though they lack the chamber music elements of John Hollenbeck’s group. So while Empirical isn’t pushing out into the outer reaches of jazz with electronics or noise, they do have a distinctive take on post-bop, post-fusion music. Nathaniel Facey’s alto playing is fluid and edgy without being screechy or falling prey to the wimpy sound some altoists have. On the vibes, Lewis Wright gives us rich, dense chords, imaginative melodic lines, and impressive solos. The rhythm section of Shaney Forbes (drums) and Tom Farmer (bass) are the main reason I think of the group as “post-whatever” — they are clearly playing jazz, but there’s no resorting to cliches like a straight swing beat with a walking bass line outlining a blues progression. My favorite track is probably “Card Clash,” which features a bouncy melody in parallel dissonant voicings between the sax and vibes. It’s a lovely touch that sets up some of Wright’s best playing. Connection may not be the kind of album that jumps out at you on first listen, but it’s got charms that reveal themselves given time.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Empirical

Latest news

2019-02-21
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more

2019-01-31
Keyboardist Ingo Bischof R.I.P. – Keyboard player Ingo Bischof, best known as the longtime keyboard player of German band Kraan, passed away on January 29th, 2019. Bischof was born January 2, 1951 in Berlin-Kreuzberg and joined Kraan in 1975. » Read more

2019-01-11
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more

2019-01-02
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more

2018-12-23
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Anthony R. Flynn - Angel's Breath – What first struck me as sort of a Spanish flavored acoustic guitar based fusion album in the mold of some of Al DiMeola's adventures or Strunz & Farah began to change midway through the album....  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues