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)
"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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