Wednesday, April 19, 2017


TIED TOGETHER, NOT TO THE GROUND (available on Red Piano Records, May 12, 2017) is the debut album from bassist/composer/bandleader Andrew Schiller. The artist unveils his unique writing style in this evocative 10-song collection, showcasing a group of adventurous and like-minded musicians.

The compositions on this album cover a broad spectrum but maintain a strong underlying theme through Schiller's unifying compositional aesthetic. The album's title refers to Schiller's own attempt to hold on to his identity, his memories, and his beliefs without letting the weight of nostalgia cause stagnation. Songs from the record conjure up an array of remembrances and imagery-pivotal places, experiences, and people encountered-not just as a scrapbook of journeys, but as a gentle reminder to take the occasional leap forward into the unknown.
The first track, LITTLE SHOES, begins with a sparse mantra-like statement between saxophone and drums. The introduction of an intervallic counter-melody signals the gradual transformation of the theme and the piece takes on a lush yearning quality. The metronomic full-band counterpoint eventually drops out to feature a patient, lyrical bass solo from Schiller. The storytelling continues with a winding and melodic tenor saxophone solo from Hery Paz before a brief re-statement of the theme.

GO GET 'EM TIGER! comes out with guns blazing, a dynamic contrapuntal duel between the horns and rhythm section. The fragmented waltz emulates the gyrating of a fan with a broken blade rather than the glide of a ballroom dance. In a contrasting bridge section, the two saxophonists harmonize a repetitive figure, which ultimately serves as the springboard for an ascending piano/bass unison melody. Solos from Alec Harper (tenor sax) and Frank Carlberg (piano) build on the momentum of the piece.

Dancing to TINK TINK would require some well-timed and hiccupy choreography, but the song does have an infectious quality that makes one want to move. The bubbly melody, played in harmony by the saxophonists, makes frequents steps away from a home key but remains memorable nonetheless. Soloists Schiller (bass), Paz (tenor sax), and Robin Baytas (drums) not only navigate the form with deftness, but build upon the sing-song, frolicking nature of the tune.

The tone of ONE THAT NEVER WAS is set by Schiller's solo bass introduction. The piece takes on the melancholic feel of an old western film (a natural landscape for Schiller, who grew up in Arizona). In this analogy, the two tenor saxophonists, Harper followed by Paz, play the role of weary riders and deliver their stories with as much hardiness and grit.

GLUCKSCHMERZ is a five-and-a-half minute roller coaster ride. The break-neck, intervallic melody is matched by an equally turbulent counter-line from the rhythm section. The improvisation begins with the two tenor saxophonists, Harper and Paz, trading phrases. This quickly turns into a full-band rollicking collective improvisation. A drum solo from Baytas emerges from all of this, catapulting the piece towards a restatement of the melody.

Rubato drums set the stage for CFBDSIR-2149 (WANDERING PLANET) before a three-part chorale featuring both saxophones and arco bass. The trance is later broken by Frank Carlberg's punctuated piano solo which carries over into the second rendition of the chorale. A pulse materializes and the piece is seen out by an interlocking melody played by the whole group.

HEAD DOWN, WALK begins with both saxophonists playing in close harmony to the beat of a mechanical march from the drums. The introduction of a jagged counterpoint line, doubled by piano and bass, adds to the robotic nature of the piece. Contrasting solos from Carlberg and Harper create a nice ebb-and-flow and invite fascinating interplay from the rhythm section. Fragments of the melody are later intertwined with a drum solo before the reemergence of the main theme.

SKEGNESS IS SO BRACING is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to an early 20th century postcard depicting a jolly fisherman skipping down the coast of the English fishing town. The melody of this comical waltz features some quirky phrase lengths and shifting tonal centers-like a music box that isn't working quite right. Alec Harper, Frank Carlberg, and Hery Paz trade several short solos atop a swinging rhythm section.

The title track, TIED TOGETHER, NOT TO THE GROUND, is introduced by a brief meditation. This ballad drifts patiently forward without a strongly defined beat and the melody is divided between the saxophonists (first Harper, then Paz). A piano solo from Frank Carlberg emphasizes the nostalgic and playful character of the piece. The return of the melody builds momentarily in intensity but dissipates gradually, finally reaching the finish line at a crawl.

The album's brief send-off, WANDER, is a reinterpretation of an earlier track, this time with the three-part chorale performed on the piano. The rest of the ensemble staggers their entrances and dance around the melody, sparsely at first, but gradually coming to the forefront as the song fades away.

A native of Phoenix, AZ, Andrew Schiller is currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. Schiller's attraction to music stems from junior high school where his friends urged him to pick up the bass guitar and join their punk rock band. While his musical tastes have evolved a lot since then, he still aspires to replicate the same gusto and fearlessness he had as a boy playing music in a friend's garage. Schiller grew up studying both the saxophone and electric bass and later transitioned to the double bass, finding a powerful connection to the instrument. As a young adult, he discovered his love for composition and gradually carved out a unique voice after years spent imitating an array of musical icons.

Over the last decade, Schiller has moved from Phoenix to Boston to New York City, working as both a bandleader and sideman in various musical styles-the bulk of his concentration on jazz and improvised music. He's performed his music all over the world at venues like Cornelia Street Cafe (NYC), the Jazz Showcase (Chicago), the Panama Jazz Festival, and as a guest artist with the National Symphony of Paraguay in Asunción. Andrew holds a master's degree from the New England Conservatory where his mentors included Dave Holland, Billy Hart, and Ralph Alessi. In 2012, he was recognized in DownBeat Magazine for his work as a soloist and was awarded the ASCAP Young Composers Grant in February 2014.


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