The motto on the home page of Douglas Detrick and his AnyWhen Ensemble says it all: “We believe in the unexpected.” Listen to their latest, The Bright and Rushing World, a 10-track through-composed suite due for release March 25, and you will hear what they mean. Not only do they seek to inhabit the space where the spontaneity of jazz meets the traditions of classical music, but the signature instrumentation of their ensemble and the sound they develop is definitively and uniquely their own.
Chamber jazz has been around for a while. Detrick and company take it to a whole new level. And while the modernist content of their music might not find them a massive audience, it will certainly find an enthusiastic following amongst the “fit though few,” among those willing to go along on a more adventurous musical journey. While the music can be dissonant, just as often it can be intensely lyrical. It is always surprising.
Detrick describes his intention for the suite: “As I was planning the shape of The Bright and Rushing World, I knew that I wanted to write a long suite with several movements all based on a single theme that would remain ever-present and ever-recognizable. I wanted to create the most developed and integrated piece on a grand scale, so that this theme would serve as a constant thread that would guide a listener through this long work, and help to deliver him to the end of the piece with the satisfaction of a journey completed.” The focus, then, would seem to be on the compositional integrity of the whole, as opposed to spontaneous improvisation. The thematic material is introduced right at the beginning of the suite by the composer’s trumpet, in a section called “The Door is Open.” The listener can then follow the theme and variation through the hour and five minutes of the suite’s performance, almost as a map for the journey.
The 10 movements of the suite take their titles from the 10 lines of a poem written by composer Detrick. As the 10 movements create a thematic whole, the 10 titles create one as well. Given the composer’s intention, they reflect the basic unity of the work. As Detrick describes it, the poem is about the reflections of a parent as he sees his child set out in the world, realizing he has failed to give the child a name. The metaphoric connection to his musical child is clear, and the poem itself becomes the name. Indeed, it is as much a tour de force as the piece itself.
AnyWhen includes Detrick on trumpet, saxophonist Hashem Assadullahi, cellist Shirley Hunt, Steve Vacchi on bassoon, and Ryan Biesack on drums.