Killer duo with Michael Lytle
Oct 08, 2014
Pal at Studio Z, St Paul, MN
George Cartwright , tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Andrew Broder, guitar, sound manipulation, JT Bates, drums and sound manipulation; Josh Granowski, bass.
Few genres of music have been as prolific, and influential as jazz—the foundation of modern music, and the only purely American art form. Jazz has undergone many incredibly diverse transformations throughout its long history, but has waned in popularity in recent years. Saxophonist George Cartwright is one of the few great jazz musicians still actively making music, and his October 7th performance at Studio Z is proof of his—as well as his band’s—remarkable talents. Furthermore, the intimately small setting provided by Studio Z, located near the Union Depot, in St. Paul, allows one to fully experience his music.
The first jam of Cartwright’s set—a medley of the songs “Pool with Clear Frogs,” and “Red Dress”—was an outstanding way to open the night. By far the longest song of the night, the band travelled through a variety of musical textures. Cartwright’s performance ranged from mysterious to nightmarish, especially when he viciously tore into the upper register of his horn. Cartwright’s band—consisting of a double bassist, guitarist, and drummer—provided precise accompaniment during the piece’s epic length, never failing to play something interesting, or compelling. Especially noteworthy were the several infectious grooves that the rhythm section settled into, which offered a needed stable base for Cartwright’s chaotic playing.
Cartwright continued the show with a series of several much shorter songs. Instead of emphasizing the instrumental experimentation showcased in the longer pieces, these more concise works focused on the use of synthesizers, tape loops, and brief vocal parts. The result was a several eerily beautiful avant-garde soundscapes. The stand out moment in this part of the set was easily “Poem,” a brief synthesis of spoken word, singing, and synthesizer heavy jazz.
The band concluded the night, “The Crazy People I’ve Known,” was the most group’s most esoteric, and avant-garde piece. Except for the drummer, none of the musicians began the song playing their instruments with any semblance of traditional technique. The guitarist was tapping and bending the strings with both of his hands—creating a disorienting stream of sound—the bassist was scraping the bow across the microphone, and Cartwright was breathing through his instrument. The effect of this strange array of playing cannot be captured in words; the musicians were not playing music in the traditional sense of the word. Cartwright’s style of free-jazz is at one point hopelessly inaccessible to those who are not familiar with jazz music, but it is also a masterful example of how one can twist the traditional characteristics of western music, and deserves to be appreciated by as many people as possible.
Hear the concert here.