Sweeter Than the Day

Live at the Rendezvous, Seattle 2004

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Keyboardist Wayne Horvitz is known for surrounding himself with many electric ensembles. This recording is a reminder of how talented an acoustic pianist he is, alongside his local Seattle based quartet Sweeter Than the Day. This does not mean he dismisses amplified instruments, electric guitarist Tim Young sees to that. STTD incorporates a sound that emphasizes the original compositions of Horvitz that are at once singsongy and stealth. Dynamic levels never peak above moderately loud, while the aesthetic of the band contains concise, tuneful, attractive, hummable, well-paced sound paintings that are never overbearing. The bass and drums, though supportive and complementary, probe but are rarely insistent. For the first set/CD, the opening number "Waltz from the Oven" explores a delicate, noir circus Kurt Weill classicism. By the second piece, "Prepaid Funeral," the band's consistent collective aesthetic is realized; it's a bright, singing, and sighing melodic precept. The titles "Capricious Midnight," "Inference," and "In the Ballroom" evoke images as the titles suggest, the second using a cute repeated figure that swings, the latter a tango-ish skittering dancing line that is also a little funky and bluesy. "Ironbound" provides Horvitz a chance to stretch in a taut but low-key impressionistic, improvised, near gothic treatise, the voice that identifies much of this music. For the beginning of the second set/CD, a similar pristine concept starts things on "Julian's Ballad" (for the great jazz trombonist Julian Priester) but as an anthematic tone poem. The screwball hurled is a Raymond Scott style wacky, cartoonish, ultimately labyrinth inspired lengthy discourse "Disingenuous Firefight," which at 11 1/2 minutes diverts drastically from what is heard before. Where Young's guitar is normally lean and clean, it is thorny and more processed during "Diggin' Bones," his composition. A more darkly radiated ostinato line swings through "In the Lounge," there's a fairly straight reading of the Grateful Dead's "Casey Jones," and the closer is a quick neo-bopper "LTMBBQ." This is an extraordinary document top to bottom that translates well from club date to home stereo. Look out Metheny/Mehldau, Sweeter Than the Day wants your mojo.

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