reviews for spectral domains


James Emery: Acoustic Guitar, composer   
Marty Ehrlich: Alto Sax Soprano Sax Flute  
Chris Speed: Tenor Sax & Clarinet:  Mark Feldman: Violin
Michael Formanek: Bass  Gerry Hemingway: Drums 
 Kevin Norton: Vibes, Marimba & Percussion 

ENJA Records (ENJ 9344 2)

By Jim Macnie

“...ground-breaking... Intricate melodies waft around each other, tempos take cool detours through landscapes that both swing and float. Sophistication reigns - it's arguably the guitarist's finest moment. Perhaps the biggest achievement of Spectral Domains is that its beauty - whether abstract on "Chromosphere" or focused on "Cosmology" - is unmistakable. Emery says he chose to update Mingus' "Far Wells, Mill Valley" because of its daring, logic and exquisite aura. His own pieces manage something similar, aiming for radiance at every turn.”
by Glenn Astarita

“Solo artist and member of the critically acclaimed String Trio of New York, guitar virtuoso James Emery has produced a bonafide winner in Spectral Domains. Emery is one of the world's finest guitarists and possesses an encyclopedic jazz vocabulary as a technician and composer. The James Emery Septet is an assemblage of modern, cutting edge jazz musicians who have been shaping and to some extent, reinventing modern jazz through refreshingly new concepts and adept technical proficiency.

Emery's 1997 ENJA release, Standing On A Whale Fishing for Minnows is 
superb; however, Spectral Domains is Emery's finest solo outing to date. Emery's composition titled, Red Spaces In A Blue Field, PT 1 is complex and technically challenging complete with alternating themes, precise time signatures and generous doses of hard-edged swing. Here, gifted saxophonist and woodwind specialist, Chris Speed performs on the clarinet while trading airy, light-as-a-feather choruses with Marty Ehrlich's fluid, over-the-top flute work. Throughout, Speed and the estimable multi-reedman Ehrlich wear many hats as they toggle between various woodwind instruments along with Emery's brilliantly conceived phrasing and soloing. In the liners, Emery states that Red Spaces In A Blue Field, PT 2 "was influenced by Monk, Mingus and Ellington". Charles Mingus' Far Wells, Mill Valley is injected with themes, which suggest Spanish bravado. The soloists are predictably outstanding for their combined grace, wit and execution. Here, the Septet possesses a "little big band" sound which was often evident in Mingus' small group ensembles. On Far Wells, Mill Valley, Emery & Co. present captivating twists and turns, sheer elegance and cunning ingenuity. Emery's Chromosphere features an arrangement, which borders Chamber and New York City Downtown Scene modernism.

Special kudos to the all world rhythm section of Michael Formanek (bass), Kevin Norton (vibes, marimba, percussion) and Gerry Hemingway (drums) for their keen sense of dynamics and sympathetic accompaniment. Kevin Norton is the painter as he supplies subtle shades and bright colorful tonalities throughout the entire project. Emery's incredibly fast single note runs, complex chord progressions and clever utilization of harmonics make for delightful listening on Monk's Trinkle Tinkle. Chris Speed's solemn, reflective clarinet performance on the Ornette Coleman classic Kathelin Gray meshes well with Emery's classic jazz style guitar in this brief yet lovely duet. Bassist-composer Mark Helias conducted Emery's Sound Action Seven as the Septet take sort of an Anthony Braxton-ish approach. A lengthy tone poem, the music becomes furiously conversational and is orchestrated in clusters; hence, Sound Action Seven takes on a free-jazz complexion. The album's amiable closer is an Emery composition titled Strings Of Thread. Here, violinist Mark Feldman jazzes up a quaint Brazilian motif as the project ends on an affably simple yet highly entertaining note.

Supported by an all-star ensemble of proven modern jazz stylists and session aces, Spectral Domains features staggering technical virtuosity, remarkable creative spirit and unique renderings of jazz classics. Folks, this is the complete package!”

***** (Excellent)

by Tom Terrell

“Three decades of picking obliques with Leroy Jenkins, Anthony Braxton and bending Monk-bebop-blues notes with the String Trio of New York have evolved acoustic guitarist James Emery into a formidable improviser/composer/arranger with a particularly unique chordal-melodic-harmonic six-string flow. On the new Spectral Domains, Emery takes his jazz cipher to the next level via the instrumental color-expanding construct of the septet. Anchored-pushed-pulled-lifted by the spirit-cosmic yin/yang fission set off by demigod freestylers like Marty Ehrlich, Chris Speed and Mark Feldman, Emery serves up 10 emotionally nuanced/harmonically complex tracks. Whether exalting in the Django/Grappelli-haunted abstract bop of Red Spaces in a Blue Field pt. 2, "Trinkle Tinkle"'s Monk-Bird-Roach-Pettiford-52nd St wildest dream jam fantasy or "Strings of Thread"'s intoxicating flamenco-tango vapors, Spectral Domains is never less than compelling. James Emery is special.”