Preconceived notions and running out of coffee are a critics worst enemy.
What I immediately discovered is an open ended approach walking a harmonic tightrope between accessible hard bop dialed down to a more lyrically driven avaunt garde approach and a more earthy harmonic sound that is slightly more typical of European improvised music. McLemore's deceptively subtle playing is part of the sonic glue that holds this amazing ensemble together. One could argue for the sake of comparison that a slight ECM vibe would periodically pop up but that would be inherently unfair. McLemore has clearly found a distinctive warmth to his artistic voice while living in a country that one might consider anything but when admiring the cover art. While there is a zen like approach to Remote Location there is an overwhelming personal feeling of connectivity that finds and mysteriously weaves its way in and out of various tunes. This emotional feel is transformed within a deep and keen lyrical interplay between band members and from a rich color palette by the band while McLemore in his own words, "was just the drummer." The first sign of potential greatness with any ensemble no matter the size is trust. McLemore appears to be fully aware of the prolific talent that was assembled and therefore allowed the jazz collective the opportunity to make it work by pushing the music forward while acting merely as the conduit of sonic transfer.
A somewhat conceptualized release that celebrates the three places McLemore has lived which are Virginia, New York and Iceland and while jazz can be as regional as cuisine within the same state the diversity of locations seem to each add their own flavor to this most creative offering.
"Charlottsville" is a lyrical slightly blues infused number with a haunting dynamic tension from shifting meter and harmonic variation. There is an open texture, a unique spatial context worked to perfection by the ensemble that has the ability to keep the listener on the edge of their seat wondering what melodic twists and turns are ahead. "Waking" is a tune most musicians and in this case critics can relate to as some of our better work or inspiration seems to creep into our subconscious long after most people have called it a day. A more free form ambient quality permeates this tune along with deceptively subtle nuances to develop a intricate and well thought out organic pulse. The title track "Remote Location" with a articulated syncopation of mystery is pushed forward with great finesse by both McLemore and a slightly abstract yet accessible performance by saxophonist Oskar Guojonsson. The entire quintet plays on a firm and equal footing each making significant contributions to the overall aesthetic feel.
In dramatic contrast to the preconceived notions of typical Eastern European improvised music there is a zen like appeal of less is more despite a melodic sense of urgency and lyrical development within a spatial context more reminiscent of the modern jazz approach of such western players as Pat Metheny and of course the late drummer Paul Motian who is an obvious influence upon McLemore's development. Remote locations works on multiple levels as McLemore is a cultural byproduct of his own experience and while certain influences may be prevelent, each is combined to allow McLemore the opportunity to make his own personal artistic statement of individual freedom. Modern jazz with a riff on a more tranquil approach to improvised music from Europe has never sounded better.
A dramatic and incredibly inventive release that can easily stand along side any release you may hear in the ECM catalog. Inspiring!
Tracks: Remote Location; Secrets of Earth; Citizen Starting Zen; Una Danza en La Cocina; Charlottsville; Dunegrass; Woods At Night; Waking; Balkelero; Don't Miss The Signs; Movement For Motian;
Personnel: Scott McLemore: drums; Oskar Guojonsson: tenor saxophone; Andres Thor: acoustic/electric guitar; Sunna Gunn Laugs: piano, wurlitzer; Robert Porhallson: contrabass, electric/acoustic bass.