Thursday, June 13, 2024
HomeMusicElijah McLaughlin & Caleb Willitz – Morning Improvisations / Evening Abstractions

Elijah McLaughlin & Caleb Willitz – Morning Improvisations / Evening Abstractions

Wow, Morning Improvisations / Evening Abstractions, the debut collaboration from Chicago-based guitarist Elijah McLaughlin and fellow Chicagoan, recording engineer, producer and sound artist Caleb Willitz, is so packed full of creative ideas and endeavour that it defies you to switch off from it for a moment. Crafting the record from duo sessions laid to tape at Caleb’s studio, the pair then sculpted song structures from the results and invited select guests to contribute and elevate the pieces, with Chuck Johnson providing the mastering.

The most obviously rewarding example of this is Vesper Pt. 2, where Elijah’s sturdy, overdriven guitar plays a progressive line and is joined by Charles Rumback’s drums and, with bells on, Edward Wilkerson Jr.’s amazing saxophone playing. Jason Stein also weighs in on bass clarinet to give this exhilarating tune another dimension; it is fun and bonkers enough to recall parts of The Flower School, by Zoh Amba, Chris Corsano and Bill Orcutt, so there you go.

Elsewhere, however, the music is calmer and more spacious. Immediately after the above ensemble workout, Weaving of Smoke quietly sidles in with a super-nifty jazz drum line from Josh Johannpeter that moves with pulsing electronics, soft piano and clean electric guitar. Although sultry and furtive, it is an unassuming song that would work well in a quieter night scene from a film like Drive.

Lighter music can be found on songs like Rest, a meditative miniature that blends muted piano notes with a sweet guitar refrain that is joined by softly played brass and woodwind. Spikier and more tangled in structure is Good Fortune, an ace and lengthy improvisation, clocking in at nearly eight minutes. Elijah’s guitar has lots of fun here, with reverb tails accentuated by electronic beeps and sparse, light piano notes. Again, Bill Orcutt springs to mind, with the jagged, sometimes impatient picking patterns reminiscent of his solo electric work. Caleb and Elijah feed off each other here, with the steadily sharper piano provoking a muscly guitar attack before, after the halfway point, the tempo drops with the piano’s octave and the guitar slows to punch out more spaced-out shards of playing.    

Jazzier and eerier is A Clock for No Time, which has less provocative piano chords working with guitar and Charles Rumback’s spacious drumming. Like some of the music on Charles’ Little Common Twist with Ryley Walker, this tune plays out like a soundscape, with weird electronic sounds punctuated by the clear and earthy piano. It is as experimental as anything else on here, but the pace is slowed, changing the character of the music and bringing something different to the palette. This is some record; for experimental and improv fans, as well as jazz fiends, there is so much to enjoy, because every musician contributing is highly skilled and clearly more than up to the challenging task of creating intelligent improvised music. But the album goes further than that and delivers a listening experience that is also simply pleasurable without picking it apart. It is an ace, energising recording that has something for everyone.

Morning Improvisations / Evening Abstractions is released on 7th June 2024 via Centripetal Force.

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