Christopher Dammann

composer/musician

Friends from two states unite for Restroy’s ‘Saturn Return’

Restroy’s new record, Saturn Return, is kind of bassist Chris Dammann’s deal, and a huge deal it is. He saw a chance to bring two groups of very like minded musicians together — one from Chicago, one from Virginia — and see what happened. What happened is an intriguing interplay of chamber music, molasses jazz, and a functioning pop outer layer in the rhythmic, saucy beats above all that serious, free-form-feeling stuff.

Released on May 6, Saturn Return features 10 musicians and eight purely original instrumentals foraging around for wordless wonder — often led by the two composers, Dammann on bass and Catherine Monnes on cello and violin.

Dammann contributed all but one of the tracks, with Monnes singling out the third, “Skin.”

The other musicians in the two combined groups are tenor saxophonist/producer Nick Anaya and trumpeter James Davis throughout the album, guitarist Tim Stine, flutist Gina Sobel, drummers Dylan Andrews and Daniel Richardson, Tabla/frame drummer Loren Oppenheimer, and percussionist/electronics player/mixer Matt Wyatt on three to four various tracks.

Dammann, Anaya, and Davis recorded on the previous free form jazz album, Amongst The Smokestacks And Steeples, with Armageddon in mind, as a part of the core 3.5.7 Ensemble.

Fair warning: A lot of this stuff is far out, transcendental, incense music to downright messing with your mind. “S.M.I.B.D.” threatens not to make a lick of sense, yet is disarming in its sensory overload. “11 Eggrolls” toys with the balance of chaos and an almost OC-D focus on reaching the sweetest tones of horns gone wrong.

Before the listener has a chance to toss the album aside for Guns N’ Roses or Taylor Swift, something with a mindless, driving beat, bubblegum sentimentality, death metal posturing, or melody for days, “Autumn Must Be Money” comes on redeeming everything.

The sixth track is a horn player’s dream, swirling percussion, infinite possibilities, that succulent, sexy tone promising after-hours of foreplay. Oppenheimer’s exotic drumwork, Wyatt’s percussive electronics, Monnes vibrates on the scrimshaw of her moon-dappled strings, and the horn section shines through in a work that is accessibly midnight jazz, classically laced, and a touch global, primal even. It’s as if two worlds, beyond Virginia and Chicago, collided.

“Chris&CathyBFFs4evahever” is not only an odd title but an odd smash of East and West, classical and free jazz, that simply works on a subconscious level. Best played while gardening, or deciding on whether to downsize after the kid graduates from high school in the midst of a hailstorm and a daunting recession, the last track ends on a whimsical high note.

A press release for the new album reads: “More minimal, and concise than Dammann’s previous recordings with the 3.5.7 Ensemble, this music is about being with friends and finding common language between musicians of differing backgrounds. Saturn Return celebrates the unique voices of its musicians. Loren Oppenheimer’s experiences as a Tabla soloist and as a sincere disciple of Pandit Divyang Vakil are highlighted, as well as James Davis’s trumpet playing and Catherine Monnes’ lyrical cello work.”

Monnes really stands out, if it’s possible, in Saturn Return. She transforms her cello into jazz bass and, at times, a hybrid of jazz guitar and jazz drums.

This is a nice work in progress, and a new sound that needs to be followed closely.