In The Bright And Deep
Two years ago, trumpeter Daniel Nissenbaum made his recording debut as a leader with Bismuth. A very talented trumpeter who had worked mostly behind the scenes up until then including as an educator, film scorer and composer for Nickelodeon, the Smithsonian Channel, PBS and other outlets, he showed on Bismuth that he could play modern straight ahead jazz with the best. That set featured seven of his originals with a top-notch hard bop sextet.
In The Bright And Deep is a very different type of project, one that puts the focus equally on Nissenbaum’s trumpet playing and his composing. Most of the release was recorded in Holland with a quintet that also includes altoist Donald Simoen, pianist Koen Schalkwijk, bassist Tijs Klaassen, and drummer Joan Terol Amigó. Three brief pieces have Nissenbaum as part of an a capella horn quartet with trombonist Steve Tirpak, altoist Andrew Urbina, and Mark Allen on tenor and baritone. In addition, some pieces add a string quartet or a string orchestra.
The ten originals and two covers function very much as a suite, with one piece leading logically to the next one. First the trumpeter leads his quintet through the episodic “Ribbons Down My Back” (taken from Jerry Herman’s musical Hello Dolly) which covers several different moods and sets the standard for the project, blending together aspects of jazz and classical music. After the brief “Prelude” by the string quartet, the group performs the pretty folk melody “Ach Kesem” which features expressive statements from Nissenbaum and altoist Simoen that are a logical outgrowth of the theme.
The classical-type melody of “Carry Me Gently (and Lay Me Down in Fields of Heather)” inspires a powerful trumpet solo over a rhythm section reminiscent of McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison. There are two brief pieces (the ballad “Rounder’s Dream” which features the four horns and “Allegro”) before Nissenbaum leads the quintet through his contemporary post-bop original, “In The Bright And Deep”; the leader and Schalkwijk on electric piano star. The funky “Granite Shapes” has an attractive groove and short solos that form a unified whole. “Rounder’s Prayer” with the four horns and the voice of KJ McNeill is haunting. “Magic Doors,” which is built off of a repetitive riff, has a fine drum solo from guest Erik Johnson. The colorful project concludes with a final statement from the four horns on “Rounder’s Tempo,” and the wistful “Requiem (For My Father).”
With the release of the atmospheric In The Bright And Deep, Daniel Nissenbaum takes a strong step forward as a trumpeter, composer and conceptualist. It is well worth several listens.
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including Trumpet Kings and Jazz On Record 1917-76
Trumpeter Daniel Nissenbaum describes his band Duotrio as a modular jazz chamber ensemble. He originally conceived the name from the work he was doing with a drummer friend and a rotating cast of additional players, typically in quintet settings: hence a duo and a trio.
On In the Bright and Deep, the chamber jazz concept holds true, though the numbers are stretched to breaking, as the configurations range from a three-piece (soloduo?) to Nissenbaum with a 60-piece orchestra. Whatever the numbers, all the approaches share a similar esthetic, whether acoustic, electronic or somewhere in between.
The album opens with one of the two non-originals, “Ribbons Down My Back” from Hello Dolly, featuring Nissenbaum, a quartet from Holland, and strings. The strings hold forth on the following “Prelude,” which is just that – a quick and quirky intro to “Ach Kesem,” with both Nissenbaum and saxophonist Donald Simeon in a lyrical mood. As the piece winds down, the horns are subsumed into an echo-laden piano, ending with a gentle swoosh.
Daniel Nissenbaum says the goal is to “incorporate a wide range of instrumentation and genres not normally found in improvised music.” Some of the material, such as “Carry Me Gently (and Lay Me Down in Fields of Heather),” is straight out of the ECM playbook: Euro-jazz with some instrumental interplay. Other Duotrio tunes, such as “Allegro” and “Rounder’s Tempo,” are classical in structure. Then you hear electric piano, and you think this is more of a retro recording.
“Allegro” features a triple-tracked Nissenbaum, his lines winding in and around one another. The only criticism is the song’s brevity: It clocks in at just 48 seconds. “Allegro” leads into the title track, which features the overdriven sound of Wurlitzer electric piano.
“Granite Shapes” is perhaps the standout moment, starting as a gently swinging tune, electric piano and trumpet stating a simple melody before Nissenbaum and Duotrio saxophonist Simeon play off the Wurlitzer. Brief spots from bassist Tijs Klaassen and pianist Koen Schalkwijk surround an exquisite solo by Nissenbaum. All of the soloists seem to embrace the maxim “Leave the audience wanting more.”
The stately “Rounder’s Prayer” is followed by the insistent beat of “Magic Doors,” originally by the trip-hop band Portishead. The horns come in partway through to reinforce the electric piano lines. That’s one of the most interesting things about Duotrio’s recording: While there is an aspect of chamber jazz about In the Bright and Deep, Daniel Nissenbaum is able to vary the approach without the results ever sounding jumbled or forced.
The concluding “Requiem (For My Father)” ends the proceedings on a wistful note, as Nissenbaum showcasing his gorgeous tone. All told, Duotrio’s In the Bright and Deep is an enjoyable outing, one that like the too-brief solos leaves the listener looking forward to more.
In a season when most music is either cacophony or navel gazing, it’s refreshing when you get an album that mixes clever ideas along with confident tones and a swingingly soulful sound. Daniel Nissenbaum plays trumpet, piccolo trumpet and synths in a pair of settings, with the first team including Dutch Masters Koen Schalkwijk/p, Tijs Klaasen/b and Joan Terol Amigo/dr and the second team, from Philly, featuring Mark Allen/ts-bs and Steve Tirpak/tb-p. There are also various guests on strings, orchestra, guitar, drums and voices that have the album resulting in a multi-colored palate of rich tones and directions.
Nissenbaum’s horn is warm and clear on the classy baroque fugue of “Allegro” and teams well with the Mozartian strings on “Prelude” while “Requiem (For My Father)” melds orchestra and his open horn in a passionate declaration. There are a trio of “Rounders” tunes with the Philadelphia team, with “Prayer” including a liturgical mix of voices and narration, solemn horns on “Dream” and classical directions on “Tempo”.
The Holland band delivers a lovely and lyrical folk tune “ Ach Kesem” that has the leader in a bright and crisp mood, while sleek keyboards veer with the rhythm section on segues and rabbit trails on the post bopper “In the Bright and Deep”. Rumbling drums percolating with piano and richly swaying strings reach a wondrous climax on “Ribbons Down My Back” and the groove cuts deep on “Magic Doors”. Nissenbaum and company avoid the trap of making the various sounds appear gratuitous, instead each piece tune comes off like a sonic chip of marble in a musical mosaic. Check this one out!
George Harris (Jazz Weekly)