The origins of this debut Whirlwind release as a leader, from acclaimed saxophonist and composer, and founding member of The New York Standards Quartet (who's sixth album, Sleight Of Hand is out now on Whirlwind) Tim Armacost, tell a fascinating tale. A marquee player on the New York City and Japanese scenes for many years, with an extensive discography and countless live and recorded collaborations to his name in the US, Europe and Asia, the clear direction for Time Being arrived, remarkably, out of the blue.
As Armacost elaborates: "I pictured myself, like a scene from a movie, playing Ornette Coleman's 'Lonely Woman' in the studio with a trio - double bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. Tain was, in terms of time signature, out on his own, and Bob and I were communicating with each other independently of what he was playing. But what Tain was doing was so incredibly attractive - so eerie and so beautiful - that we both really wanted to go over and be part of that; yet we already had this melody that we had to play together. That whole idea led to these explorations of creating tension by playing in parallel spaces, and then releasing the tension into a beautifully swinging groove by allowing the parallel spaces to merge. It was something I'd never tried before, and the concept was really exciting. We decided to record in Tain's studio, in an intimate live environment with no separation." "So for my compositions and arrangements, I needed to imagine the ideas happening in real time; and fortunately, with Tain and Bob on board - some of the most swinging musicians on the planet - there was a great willingness for exploration, to make it happen." Joining the trio on selected tracks is pianist David Kikoski, providing elegant, rippling color to numbers such as "The Next 20" and "One and Four."
Through the dedication of these accomplished artists, this concept evolved into a project that is organic, exploratory and swinging. The three 'Sculptures' on the album are very much an expression of this structured experimentation. "Phase Shift" is modeled on an 'X' formation, as Armacost and Watts converge along the left tempo pathways with Hurst on the right until saxophonist and bassist change places - technical in construction, but an exhilarating listen. On "Tempus Funkit," Armacost independently visits the rhythms of Tain and Hurst; and the particle-like conflict of "All The Things You Could Become In The Large Hadron Collider" (based on "All The Things You Are") is also a playful reference to Charles Mingus', "All The Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud's Wife Was Your Mother".
"Lonely Woman" - the seed of this album that engendered so many possibilities, features a call-and-response between tenor and bass, initiating their own improvisations until the drums home in on the bassist. So the differing musical tensions are intentionally part of the unplanned dialogue present throughout this recording. On the title track, "Time Being," the trio divides when Armacost moves to a different tempo, with Hurst following, and Watts reaching them later - as Armacost enthuses: "When we all come back together, the pay-off is really delicious!" "53rd Street" is inspired by the blues melody of Thelonious Monk's "52nd Street"; there's a fine, percussively buoyant interpretation of Monk's "Teo"; and the feisty, original composition "Alawain" says so much about this trio's collective, impassioned spirit.
Tim Armacost describes the session as being playful, wild and serious: "It has been a real source of joy for me to see such open musicians willing to make an attempt at something we've never done before; and especially when things got kind of interesting, and we started smiling - that was a really special, even relaxed experience. I hope that, although this has a demanding concept at its roots, listeners can pick up on its lyrical, singing qualities. The audience is very much part of the conversation - we're doing this thing together, and we invite you in to have fun!"