What our staff has to say: “The album that grew on us all. Seems to be playing at least once a day in the shop. Moody jazz album that sits within its own sound.” – Jack
The next chapter of the Natural Information Society is here. Since Time Is Gravity, credited to Natural Information Society Community Ensemble with Ari Brown, presents a newly expanded manifestation of acclaimed composer & multi-instrumentalist Joshua Abrams nearly 15 year, 7 albums- &-counting flagship ensemble. Joining the core NIS of Abrams (guimbri & bass), Lisa Alvarado (harmonium) Mikel Patrick Avery (drums) & Jason Stein (bass clarinet) are Hamid Drake (percussion), Josh Berman & Ben Lamar Gay (cornets), Nick Mazzarella & Mai Sugimoto (alto saxophones & flute), Kara Bershad (harp) & Chicago living legend of the tenor saxophone Ari Brown. Recorded live to tape at Electrical Audio & The Graham Foundation, cover painting Vibratory Cartography: Nepantla, by Lisa Alvarado.
“Since first developing Natural Information Society in 2010, Joshua Abrams has been gradually expanding the group’s conceptual underpinnings, its musical references & the sheer number of the group’s members. Its music is, in a sense, an expansive form of minimalism, based in repeated & overlaid rhythmic patterns, ostinatos & modality. Its roots, its scale & its meaning become clearer in time. If time is gravity, it also allows us to carry more. Having begun as fundamentally a rhythm section with Abrams’ guimbri at its core, the version here can stretch to a tentet, including six horns. Abrams has been expanding his minimalism gradually, but he has long understood a key to minimalism’s potential: the breadth of its roots in the late 1950s & early 1960s, ranging from the dissatisfaction of young European-stream composers with the limitations of serialism to the simultaneous dissatisfaction of jazz musicians with the dense harmonic vocabulary of bop & hard bop. The former began exploring rhythmic complexity & narrow tonal palates in place of harmonic abstraction (Steve Reich’s Drumming, Philip Glass’ Music with Changing Parts; perhaps above all Terry Riley’s In C & his late ’60s all-night organ & loop concerts); the later reduced dense chord changes to scales (signally with Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, but rapidly expanding with John Coltrane’s vast project). In the 1950s the LP record opened the world with documentation of Asian & African musics, key influences on both minimalists & jazz musicians. If John Coltrane’s soprano saxophone suggested the keening shehnai of Bismillah Khan, the instrument was rapidly taken up by two key minimalists, LaMonte Young & Riley, similarly appreciative of its flexible intonation, the same thing that kept it out of big bands. If the guimbri, the North African hide-covered lute that Abrams plays with NIS, involves a rich tradition of hypnotic healing music associated with the Gnawa people, Abrams’ music also touches on other musics as well –other depths, memories & healings, different drones, rhythms & modes. As the group expands on Since Time Is Gravity, he has made certain jazz traditions in the same stream more explicit as well. If there is a mystical & elastic quality involved in the experience of time, both in direction & duration, you will catch it here. The parts for the choir of winds expand on the roles of Abrams’ guimbri, Mikel Patrick Avery & Hamid Drake’s percussion & Lisa Alvarado’s harmonium: at times, the winds are almost looping in the tentet version, each hitting a repeating note in turn, at once drone & distinct inflection on temporal sequence. The brilliance of the work resides in Abrams’ compositions, the NIS’ intuitive execution & in Ari Brown’s singular embodiment of the great tenor saxophone tradition, including the oracular genius of Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis, & Yusef Lateef…” –Stuart Broomer, April 2022