Frank Kimbrough takes this ensemble's name from a passage in Jack Kerouac's On the Road: "Noumena is what you see with your eyes closed." Immanuel Kant used the term to classify things that could not be grasped through ordinary experience, as opposed to "phenomena." The gist of Noumena's music is appropriately ethereal and atmospheric, especially the cuts "Air" and "Nightscape." "727," "The Spins," and "Quiet As It's Kept" are more tangible, with clearly delineated tempos and solos. The last of these three, a ballad, is the album's longest and most beautiful selection.
Interestingly, the group has no bassist, a fact that greatly enhances the unpredictability and uniqueness of its sound. Kimbrough's piano is at the helm, with Ben Monder's guitar, Scott Robinson's tenor and bass saxophones, and Tony Moreno's drums and percussion along for the ride. Monder plays with particular beauty and force on "727." Moreno's percussion gives the beginning of "Nightscape" a quasi-Indian flavor, setting the stage for the nearly alarming sounds of Robinson's elephantine bass saxophone. Moreno is featured at length on the aptly titled closer "Over," a frenetic free piece that again showcases the bass saxophone, as well as the over-the-top fuzz guitar of Monder.
Noumena was recorded live as part of the 1997 Jazz Composers Collective concert series. It is the first recording from the series to be publicly released. Hats off to the engineers for the flawless sound.