Way Out East presents the debut of Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet, with trumpeter Ron Miles -- who you'll wish you heard more from as a leader -- cellist Peggy Lee, and bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck. Horvitz plays piano and employs electronics some of the time. The music here alternates between structured improvisation for ensemble, modern composition, jazz, and the "other path" that Horvitz often takes that is just plain unclassifiable. One place they seem to meet is in the sound of the jazz tradition that is in everything Miles plays. Note the title track on which he comes from out of time itself and lays the blues (subtly) down on a gorgeous little melody cello, while the bassoon carries the piece harmonically and Horvitz weighs in with his own contrapuntal song. Horvitz and this group are not above meandering to find their way inside a written piece either (yes, that's a good thing). There are not hot points, places that the musicians feel they absolutely need to get to make a particular work "happen." There's lots of room in such a small group and Horvitz's lyric lines take full advantage of that group dynamic: check "Between Here and Heaven" with its droning lines and open-toned terrain. The absolutely lovely melody of "Berlin 1914" comes from a concert piece with a different group containing Lee, Horvitz, Bill Frisell, and Joey Baron. Its re-recording offers a different shade of blue to the piece and Schoenbeck's bassoon and Miles' trumpet add a "parlor" feel to the tune. Horvitz's compositions are wonderfully familiar and strange all at the same time. There is a feeling of return in them that doesn't necessarily have to do with theme; it's his innate sense of time and phrasing. Horvitz is a grand rhythmic player on the Hammond B-3, and knows his stride piano, too, and they inform his writing, especially for an ensemble like this where the weight is spread out so evenly. Even the considerable abstraction and sonic texture in the final track, "World Peace and Quiet," contain elements of song, as much for the way the ensemble plays together in improvisational composition. Way Out East is a beautiful and quietly moving and poetic recording; one that will sound fresh and new decades from now. Horvitz and his players have shown that "improvised" or "new" music can be utterly lovely to listen to.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek