Bar code: 8427328436007
Jupiter is one of the most beautiful planets in the solar system and it represents the most expansive aspects of education, law, wisdom, ethics, art, and beauty. Regarded as the “Great Benefic” it has been regarded for centuries as a symbol for our ability to augment our prosperity, physical, mental, and spiritual needs. “Jupiter Conjunct” is a testament to my need to seek and perpetuate the evolution of my consciousness and admiration of our creator and connection to the All through sound. With the help of some of the finest musicians and most beautiful souls in my life, I was able to realize these works and give the world the best example of my musical journey at this point in time. I’m looking forward with much enthusiasm toward the future of this music.
—Aaron Burnett (From the inside liner notes)
"Space is the place many of us probably would have liked to have gone to escape the fresh hell of everything wrought by 2020. But the outer regions —in concept, at least— can also be a place to free our inner spirits, as saxophonist Aaron Burnett demonstrates on Jupiter Conjunct, the engaging, frequently hypnotic followup to Anomaly, the widely admired 2019 album from his Big Machine group.
Burnett’s music is nothing if not focused on navigating the crevices and passageways between musical dimensions, as typified here by two versions of “Ganymede,” a collaboration with superstar bassist Esperanza Spalding, with whom the saxophonist has toured extensively. The careering unison lines of the leader’s tenor and Spalding’s wordless vocals are reminiscent of vintage fusion. Kush Abadey’s hyperactive, scenery-chewing drums drive hip-hop grooves, and other elements and effects offer EDM colors. Burnett and trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, in particular, turn in exhilarating solos on both takes of the tune.
Burnett’s latest compositions were inspired by his reflections on the forces that keep the solar system’s largest planet connected to its four largest moons, each of which gets its own salute. In addition to “Ganymede,” there’s the haunting trumpet-tenor lines over the pulsating soundscapes of “Callisto,” dedicated to Wayne Shorter; the bop-to-avant contours of “Io,” lit by Joel Ross’ conversational, questioning vibraphones; and the even trippier, EDM-soaked “Europa.”
The varied textures and tonal temperatures of the opening “Color Durations” and “The Veil” feel like warmups for the more intense tracks to come. The ferocious “Ether,” for example, is partly built on a relentless back-and-forth between the rhythm section’s relentlessly serpentining lines and the horn players’ brash, gritty response. It all builds toward a gripping maelstrom of sound. Best hold on tight.
—Philip Booth (March, 2021)
"Aaron Burnett’s album title fascinated me, because this year issues in an astrological change that hasn’t happened in twenty years. When Jupiter and Saturn conjuncted in December, their meeting created a very bright star in the sky. Some astrologers think that was the north star that led the wise men to baby Jesus many years ago. On this unusual 2019 Winter Solstice occasion, this conjunction is called a Grand Mutation. It signals a big change on Earth and for those who believe in astrology, a pathway into the Age of Aquarius. Aaron Burnett described the album title this way:
“Jupiter Conjunct is a testament to seek and perpetuate the evolution of my consciousness and my admiration of our creator and the connection to the All through sound.”
The group opens with his ballad composition “Color Durations” that is one in nine original pieces Burnett has written for this album. It’s meditative in feel and sound, using the piano of Carlos Homs as a catalyst that sparkles like stars on a clear night. Track 2, “The Veil,” features the close harmonies of trumpeter Adam O’Farrill and Aaron Burnett on tenor saxophone. This technique is used throughout the album. I enjoyed the contrast during the trio performance of the Homs upper register keyboard against the rich bass sounds of Nick Jozwiak. Joel Ross adds vibraphone to the mix and its quite compelling, changing the face of the song, like adding lip gloss to a pretty model’s lovely face. Once the mood has been set and Aaron Burnett steps into the spotlight on alto saxophone, he flushes out improvised ideas and spews his musical thoughts rigorously. Burnett’s music is both melodic and Avant-garde. The vocals of Esperanza Spalding, harmonizing with Burnett’s tenor sax, hooks into my ear like a gold earring. Spalding’s scat singing enhances the production and introduces us to the melody of “Ganymede,” along with the vibes of Joel Ross, before Burnett takes over to pump the piece up on his horn. Finally, on track 5, the song “10” races from the disc with energy and gives Kush Abedey, on drums, an opportunity to showcase his chops. Up until this point, all the music had been pretty ‘laid back’. I wish Abedey had put some funk into this piece or laid down sixteen or more bars of pure groove, just to lift the arrangement and let me snap my fingers to the two and four. Sometimes ethereal is over-rated. Aaron Burnett & the Big Machine offer an opportunity for Burnett to present his original compositions and arrangements to the world. They repeat the song, “Ganymede” to close this album out as an alternate take. It is one of the most interesting and charismatic songs on this project, reminding me a lot of the early art of Flora Purim with Airto Moreira.
According to Jupiter’s conjunct status, in 2021, we are now moving into the realm of new ideas and explorations into technology. Like the power he uses to blow his horn, we are now moving into an era propelled by the element of air. I believe Aaron Burnett is growing into his power and talent, evolving with each new gig and every fresh composition."
—Dee Dee McNeil (January 2, 2021)
"If Aaron Burnett makes music that reflects the times we’re living in, then the saxophonist’s Jupiter Conjunct is an earnest and introspective journey in search of hope, clarity, and momentum."
—Ivana Ng, Down Beat (December, 2020)
"Up-and-coming saxophonist Aaron Burnett progressed from an in-demand sideman (Esperanza Spalding, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Vijay Iyer) to a respected composer and bandleader. His risk-taking approach to music translates into another interesting album with The Big Machine, an eclectic project formed in 2018 to give him a voice on topics such as corporation corruption and technology addiction. The follow-up to his debut album, Anomaly (Fresh Sound, 2018), is Jupiter Conjunct, which features nine original compositions inspired by the largest planet in the solar system. Backed by a cast of brilliant musicians, Burnett doesn't waste the chance to push the envelope, not only by blending jazz, hip-hop and electronica into gorgeous groove-laden offshoots but also making use of an expansive vocabulary that results in plenty of side-stepping improvisation.
“Color Durations” makes for a haunting opening with trumpeter Adam O’Farrill projecting piercing notes against a mysterious setting. The trumpeter and Burnett complement each other on “The Veil”, a sensational expedition whose rhythmic inventiveness relies on the strongly accented beat of drummer Kush Abadey, the decaying low notes of bassist Nick Jozwiak, and the impeccable integration of vibraphone and Fender Rhodes, responsibility of the young prodigious Joel Ross and gifted keyboardist Carlos Homs, respectively. The latter two musicians are the soloists here in addition to Burnett.
One of the highlights of the album is “Ganymede”, an immediately grabbing, if slightly cryptic jazz/hip-hop overlap with a smart neo-soul touch. It features Esperanza Spalding on vocals, who rides a psychedelic improvisational segment with powerful elasticity while enjoying terse horn ostinatos running in the background. Burnett is equally imaginative in his statement.
The dark-hued “Callisto” is dedicated to Wayne Shorter and evolves with a ponderous, measured beat and an underlying poignancy in tone that recalls Ambrose Akinmusire’s laments. This particular tune contrasts with the piece that follows, “IO”, an uplifting, busy depiction of the most volcanically active moon of Jupiter.
This body of work is built on invulnerable eclectic foundations, and “Ace of Swords” and “Ether” are chosen as phenomenal examples. The former, resolute in the groove and expedite while shifting meters, enjoys a very cool, ambient-soul vibe; while the latter, an EDM-inspired episode sustained by the drum-and-bass propulsion at its base, is reinforced with blistering sax-trumpet interactions and an emotionally intense vibraphone solo.
If anyone had doubts about Burnett’s extraordinary capabilities as a reedman and composer, this album should be sufficiently elucidative."
—Filipe Freitas (December 10, 2020)
"From Aaron Burnett & the Big Machine comes Jupiter Conjunct, a follow up to their 2019 album Anomaly. Drawing on hip-hop and electronica influences, this album pushes the sound of jazz along the trajectory of other current artists like bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding, who is a featured guest on this project. Led by Burnett on saxophone, the group consists of trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, keyboardist Carlos Homs, bassist Nick Jozwiak, drummer Kush Abadey, and Joel Ross on vibraphone.
Inspired by Burnett’s reverence for the planet Jupiter as a symbol of prosperity, intellectual and spiritual needs, the album includes tracks named after the planet’s four largest satellites known as the Galilean moons. Esperanza Spalding joins the group on two separate takes of the tune “Ganymede,” lending her flexible voice to the project. Her vocals are an excellent extension of the complex passages used throughout the album. “Callisto,” the outermost moon, is a track dedicated to saxophone giant Wayne Shorter. With a smooth melodic line and chill beats, it is distinctly calmer than the chaotic “Europa,” which features some furious and disjunct moments of fast saxophone passages. “Io,” named after the most volcanically active moon, features some notable vibraphone work from Joel Ross.
With Jupiter Conjunct, Burnett and his band draw from other genres in a push to discover new sounds within a cosmic framework, and their tight musicianship carries them through on this journey."
—Anna Hinkley (November 6, 2020)
"Jupiter Conjunct is saxophonist/composer Aaron Burnett & The Big Machine follow-up to 2019’s acclaimed Anomaly, this time moving into the extra-terrestrial as many jazz forbears such as Sun Ra, John and Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, and Lonnie Liston Smith, among others have done. We do have modern-day purveyors too such as The Comet Is Coming.
Burnett’s work focused on the solar system’s largest planet, its orbiting moons, and the merging of cosmic, all-connecting forces through sound. As this writer moved from the recent release, Who Are You? (covered here two weeks ago) from vibraphonist Joel Ross, a key member of The Big Machine, it felt at first as a continuation of Ross’s album until more listening revealed different instrumentation from Adam O’Farrill on trumpet, and Burnett’s tenor as opposed to the alto in Ross’s band. Rounding out The Big Machine are Carlos Homs on the piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano, Nick Jozwiak on bass, and Kush Abadey on drums. They are not so much genre-defying as genre-expanding, a band that reflects its leader’s multiple influences with a foundation rooted in classical and jazz with elements of contemporary electronic and world music.
Burnett, of course, owes much of his success to Esperanza Spalding, with whom he has toured and performed with in over 40 countries and was featured on her latest Grammy-winner, 12 Little Spells. Spalding is happy to return the favor here, lending her improvisational singularity to “Ganymede,” a tune that speaks directly to the idea that much of hip-hop is an evolution of conversations started by jazz. Scatting in unison with Burnett’s searching and complex lines on tenor, Spalding is an extension of Burnett’s horn, and his horn is an extension of her voice. Meanwhile, Jozwiak and especially Abadey, are the rhythmic tandem holding this explosive, intricate composition, together. Because there’s no such thing as too much Esperanza Spalding, the album closes with an alternate take on “Ganymede,” perhaps the tune that best synthesizes—from jazz to hip-hip to electronica —the album’s principal influences."
—Jim Hynes (November 5, 2020)
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