Started in 2011, Sketches is a Brooklyn-based collective jazz quintet in which each member writes music based on another member's musical idea. Inherent in each piece is the challenge of blending two distinct musical personalities, yet with an ensemble of strong composers and sensitive performers, the results have been as engaging as they are unpredictable. Scott Yanow commented in Jazz Inside Magazine that, "these five musicians all have compatible styles and listen closely to each other, two qualities that give Sketches its own group sound . . . With consistently fine solos (pianist Cherner is particularly inventive) and worthy themes, Volume One is an excellent start for Sketches."
On Volume Two, Sketches continues its investigation and exploration of their unique collaborative compositional process. The music on the band's sophomore album is a result of the growth that they have experienced while touring and performing music from their debut, appearing not only in New York City, but also performing in Washington D.C, Baltimore, Portland, and Boston. Volume Two reflects a deepening understanding between the band mates, building upon the critically-acclaimed music they offered on Volume One. As with the music from Volume One, each member shared a sketch from his notebook (e.g. any musical fragment, a collection of fragments, an incomplete tune) and another member used that as the basis for a new composition. The band then rehearsed and developed the compositions further. In this process, no tune is deemed complete until the band plays the composition and each improviser finds a way of coloring the pre-written material. Although the compositions start as "sketches", they are forged into complete compositions with ample room for improvisation. The band recorded all of the music on Volume Two in one day, a big indicator of the band's brilliance as ensemble players, and the unmitigated virtuosity they posses on their respective instruments.
The compositions on Volume Two reflect a very personal tone and approach. The highlights include Ravitz's "Hail from Plainville" (based on a sketch by Jeremy Udden), a tribute to Udden's personality and his compositional approach - a rare ability to combine jazz and folk music in a seamless way - that Ravitz admires. On Holman's "Y&H"(based on a sketch by Ravitz), the use of "power chords" are a tip of the hat to Holman's angst-loving teenage years. Ravitz's sketch inspired Holman to create a simple, open-form composition that has a passionate grunge feel but also pays tribute to the drummer's Middle-Eastern sensibility (Ravitz originally titled his sketch "Y&H" as a dedication to Israeli-born musician Yaron Herman). Bassist Martin Nevin's "Dyson Ritual" (based on a sketch by Udden), is meant to evoke a tribal ritual with the opening theme summoning the members of the tribe and a call to the forces that the ritual honors. Cherner's "Caught In The Storm" (based on a sketch by Holman) depicts the drama and volatility of either an internal, or actual, storm. Cherner was drawn to the harmony that resulted from the various permutations of the pitch set and the rhythm that Holman's sketch included. The band enters gradually as the storm brews, crackles with dissonance, finds moments of lyricism, gains momentum, and eventually dies down. In the coda, the listener is left with the tranquil space that's left in the storm's wake." Throughout Volume Two, the band delivers, "impressive post bop material, with rich and intelligent arrangements and a clever mix of melody and improvisation . . . You'll like these guys!" - George Harris, JazzWeekly.