At times Miller's drumming serves as a brutal counterpoint to the rest of the band, pushing things forward while Udden lithely snakes through his tunes with simple, beautiful lines, and a soft sound, reminiscent of Lee Konitz. Udden is not likely to demonstrate virtuosity, but his warm sound, simple phrases, and use of space say more than an orgy of melodic flurries ever could. Seabrook provides a variety a timbres throughout the record. Whether he's disjointedly plucking a banjo, creating minimalistic tonal landscapes, or shredding on a heavily distorted rock guitar, he always paints a beautiful portrait. Evind Opsvik lays down simple, earthy bass grooves that could be easily at home on a Bill Frisell or a Tom Waits album.
The true highlight of this record is Udden’s song writing. His melancholic songs often remind me of the empty fields, abandoned factories, and boarded up shopping malls in America's heartland. The album could play like a sound track to a Kerouac-style journey across the prairie and small towns of North America. It's jazz, and its improvised, but at the same time its music of the people. It strikes a chord, and fills you with a sense of longing for something you're missing, but you can't quite name what it is. And the true strength and beauty of this music is what it isn't. It isn't chaotic free jazz, or aggressively swinging odd meter jazz tunes, or long-form compositions that feature long prodigious solos. It stands apart from a great deal of the modern improvised music that is happening today, because it manages to be accessible, engaging, and sincerely romantic, while still sounding fresh, new, and experimental. If the Past Seems So Bright is a great record, and one that you might want to listen to on a road trip on a lonely highway.
May 31st, 2011 on Sunnyside Records
- Jeremy Udden – Alto & soprano saxophones/clarinet
- Pete Rende – Fender rhodes, pump organ, prophet, wurlitzer
- Brandon Seabrook – Banjo, guitar, 12- string guitar
- Eivind Opsvik – Acoustic bass
- R.J. Miller – Drums
- Nathan Belhar – nylon-string guitar (tracks 2, 6, & 10), voice and guitar (track 4)
- Will Graefe – steel-string acoustic guitar (track 8)
- Justin Keller – voice (track 10)
- Sad Eyes
- New Dress
- Stone Free
- Pause at a lake