Billed as a free-jazz hybrid including various parts of the jazz tradition with aspects of indie rock. The hopeful end result is a myriad of loose grooves and intelligent improvised interactions. With a lineup consisting of tenor saxophone, guitar and drums the whole indie rock vibe seems more like self indulgent wishful thinking but I decided to give Turtleboy a spin to see what turns up. Boy was I wrong.
Baseless as well as piano less trios are rare and rarer still are the ones that are able to bypass this massive sonic hole and find something of meaning to either take the bassist's place or at the very least create a subtle patch to make it slightly less noticeable. There is a distinct emphasis on a more working band feel and there is an ambient texture with minimalist nods to prog rock. The harmonic jazz sensibilities tossed into Smart Matter make for one of the better formulated trios working today. The conceptual idea of what is free jazz which is actually a jazz sub genre with no agreeable definition is somewhat in question. There is an overwhelming emotional connectivity that transcends the technical ambiguity with which some of the more avant-gard style is approached. Smart Matter is a shocker to say the least. A masterful integration of sound into a fresh and distinctive voice that sidesteps that more self limiting industry categorization.
"Smart Matter" finds the trio as a unified lyrical voice, accessible yet somewhere on the outer reaches of what may be considered a more commercial approach to their highly developed melodic feel. "Arms Wide Open" full fills the more indie-rock promise but with a stark minimalist approach which sets up inventive dynamic tension. "Separation Anxiety"is a more melodic ballad while an odd metered number again the sound scape created by their compositional feel for the unit as a collective is most impressive. While avant-gard music is clearly the trio's choice they realize that the music itself will determine which sonic side road they will find themselves. While there are other ensembles of similar aesthetics and musical individualism, these same bands fail miserably in execution and seem far to occupied in promoting their own self indulgent musical odyssey. Smart Matter is just that, intelligently executed alternative music in the cookie cutter world of today's modern jazz.
The next big thing? Only time and a little bit of luck will help cast the musical fortunes of this most inventive trio but Turtleboy is indeed an ensemble to watch. Musical integrity coupled with a sense of lyrical purpose that seems to be fully understood by all members finds Turtleboy an absolute gem from 2011.
Tracks: Smart Money; Pyramid Song; Arms Wide Open; Creation; Elephant; Patience; Inner Space; Wisdom; Seperation Anxiety; Vamyroteuthus Infernalis; Lost In Life; Protection; Nortwest Passage.
Personnel: Jonathan Lindhorst: tenor saxophone; Ryan Butler: electric & acoustic guitars; Adam Miller: drums, voice.