For over four years, the collective ensemble and de facto workshop known as Hush Point has been developing a unique approach to jazz performance. The quartet of trumpeter John McNeil, saxophonist Jeremy Udden, bassist Aryeh Kobrinsky and drummer Anthony Pinciotti have used rehearsal techniques to broaden their expression and develop a sort of group ESP. This work has produced brilliant compositions that require a high level of musicianship and group interplay. Hush Point’s evolution can be heard on their innovative third recording, Hush Point III.
Hush Point’s initial blueprint was clarinetist/conceptualist Jimmy Giuffre’s spare tune “Iranic.” They adopted the entirely acoustic lineup of woodwind, trumpet, bass and brushed drums, along with a very specific vibe generated by limiting dynamics in the drums to accentuate the sonic possibilities of the horns and bass.
Though Hush Point was created with a specific aural world in mind, the ensemble has continued to push itself into new territories, both in sound and in composition. Hush Point III finds the ensemble exploring new sonorities, including the addition of Kobrinsky’s new tuning in fifths (a rarity for bassists), certain percussion effects enlisted by Pinciotti and Udden’s expanded saxophone arsenal, which includes C-melody and straight alto. The compositions presented are their farthest reaching yet. Among the ensemble’s eccentric but experimental jazz repertoire, there are pieces that borrow from rock balladry, Ethiopian bar music and country and western.
Hush Point has matured over its lifetime and Hush Point III should be considered its most complete statement of purpose and direction. In creating this recording, the members were conscious of song length and sequencing to emulate the feel of a long playing record, even positioning the track “PG-13” as the lead off to the B-side.
The recording begins with the singular “Rhythm Method,” the piece composed of improvised melodies and harmonies over rhythms written out by McNeil, which remarkably coalesced into a free AABA form. McNeil’s “Wilbur” is one of Hush Point’s oldest tunes and a tribute to Wilbur Harden. The piece directly references the vibe of Harden’s well-known tune “Wells Fargo.” Kobrinsky’s “It’s a Pocketbook” is a straight country and western hoedown with intriguing solo patterns based on some improvised give-and-take developed during rehearsals.
The percussive “Azmari Bar” stems from an experience Udden had while traveling in Ethiopia with Either/Orchestra when he discovered Azmari music, which is a sort of improv sprechtstimme that uses bar patrons as topical subjects with musical accompaniment. The music ends up sounding as though it would fit well in the loft jazz scene of the 1970s. McNeil’s spritely “PG-13” is a “traditional” Hush Point tune that utilizes counterpoint and unique compositional devices, including the staggered entrances at the beginning.
The following “Suite” emerged during the sequencing of the recording, the individual pieces conforming into a certain arch. The “Suite” begins with McNeil’s “Cautiously Pessimistic,” a free piece with written melody, which is joined by McNeil and Kobrinsky’s 16th note phrasing to the Udden led ballad “More Than You Know,” which concludes with an adventurous solo trumpet cadenza from McNeil. The “Suite” concludes with the McNeil’s upbeat and Latin inflected “Snappy.” The recording ends with a simple but altogether lovely ballad “Journey’s End,” which the ensemble considers McNeil’s rock ballad torch song.
Hush Point has continued to grow over its short but prolific existence. The output continues to keep to the group’s initial concept of broadening sonic and emotional range by limiting the timbral bombast of amplification and loud drums. These limitations haven’t lessened the creativity of these musicians and their creations should be celebrated, including their tremendous new recording, Hush Point III.
released January 20, 2017
John McNeil - trumpet
Jeremy Udden - saxophones
Aryeh Korbrinsky - bass
Anthony Pinciotti - drums