Andrew Rathbun will already be a familiar name to fans of Fresh Sound New Talent, with his three releases ("Jade", "True Stories" and 2002's "Sculptures"). Now he has joined forces with drummer Owen Howard to explore new boundaries of contemporary jazz. This Toronto-based ensemble plays music that has a wide palette of textures and moods. In playing original music composed by Rathbun and Howard, the group will broaden your ideas of what jazz is and what jazz can be. The group, besides Rathbun on reeds and Howard on drums, John Hebert on bass, with both Ben Monder and Geoff Young on guitar. Essential listening.
01. Darkness before Light (Rathbun) 8:52
02. Missing the Sea (Rathbun) 4:48
03. Forward Motian (Howard) 8:11
04. Life as Crystals (Rathbun) 6:46
05. The Whole Enchilada (Howard) 4:35
06. There will Come Soft Rains (Rathbun) 7:01
07. Nomad (Howard) 8:00
08. Hiccup (Howard) 6:32
09. Hinge (Rathbun) 7:38
Andrew Rathbun (reeds); Owen Howard (drums); John Hebert (bass); Ben Monder (electric guitar); Geoff Young (acoustic; electric; fretless bass).
Recorded in Toronto, March 2004
Executive producer: Jordi Pujol
"How does a jazz musician go about adding some zest and shine, and maybe a touch of modernity, to the old tried and true saxophone-and-rhythm-section format? Sometimes they use a Fender Rhodes instead the accoustic piano, and sometimes they put an electric guitar in the keyboard's place; and sometimes they add a guitar to the piano, to give a denser weave to the harmonics. Rare is the use of two guitars in the jazz worldthat's more of a rock thing, it would seem. But that's the way saxophonist Andrew Rathbun and drummer Owen Howard do it on Days Before and After.
And it works, and it sounds fresh and sharp-edged, and brings to mind the question of why the two guitar approach isn't heard more often in jazz.
The sound that guitarists Ben Monder and Geoff Young bring to the set is mostly subtle, crisp understated single noting in front of delicate ringing chords, along with some seamless unison work with Rathbun's saxophone on the opener, "Darkness Before Light". The guitarists, in fact, sort of steal the show. Geoff Young I hadn't heard before, but Ben Monder played wonderfully on the recent Maria Schneider masterpiece, Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, '04); the two together create an original sound, adding a very interesting harmonic glow to the mainstream effort.
Chico Hamilton, the great eighty-two year old drummer -who is still going strong- has always favored guitarists in his units, for the 'sustain' that the instument brings to the ensemble sound. Monder and Young use their instruments' sustain properties fully here, painting metallic-hued washes to fill in all the spaces beneath the weave of the textures.
'The Whole Enchilada', an Owen Howard tune -all the songs are either Rathbun- or Howard-penned- gives the guitarists a chance to stretch out and wail on over into rock territory, while Rathbun gets a bit gritty on the tenor sax, with some of his most spirited playing on the set.
Rounding out the successful components of the set is drummer Howard and bassist John Hebert, an assertive rhythm team that adds a vibrant organic bounce to the sound, a sort of sonic turgor.
An outstanding set that should appeal especially to fans of jazz guitar."
-Dan McClenaghan, All About Jazz
"Days Before and After is a successful collaboration between reed player Andrew Rathbun and drummer Owen Howard. What makes the quintet unique is that in addition to Rathbun and Howard, also appearing are John Hebert on bass, Ben Monder on guitar, and Geoff Young on acoustic, electric, and fretless guitar. So many strings give the songs a wonderful resonance and offer interesting possibilities for musicial adventure. Moreover, Rathbun is an excellent player who moves easily from lyrical and limpid to forceful and buoyant, and Howards drumming is solid and at the same time unpredictable.
Among the best of the CDs nine songs are The Whole Enchilada, named for a restaurant near Howards apartment in Brooklyn and featuring great Latin rhythms, with the quintet taking the music out in the middle. Nomad is a multilayered song that evokes a Middle Eastern feel; the guitars create interesting fields during the horn solo and the song is full of intriguing soundscapes. Hiccup is a simple blues with a missing beat, hence the title, and its a chance for the guitarists to launch into some funky solos.
Rathbun penned five tunes and Howard four, both contributing arrangements. On top of Rathbun and Howards energy and obvious care, the CD was produced by saxophonist Pat LaBarbera, adding a further layer of excellence. Days Before and After is not only an exciting blend of moods and ideas, but also a successful example of the art of collaboration."
-Florence Wetzel, All About Jazz