Corey Christiansen. 2017. Dusk. All music composed by Corey Christiansen except (2), a traditional southern lullaby. Corey Christiansen, guitar; Jeremy Allen, bass; Matt Jorgensen, drums; Zach Lapidus, keyboards; Michael Spiro, percussion. Origin Records, 82743. Compact Disc, Album, and Digital Download. 82743. 8 Tracks (48:43). https://originarts.com/recordings/recording.php?TitleID=82743, $13.99.
In his latest release on the Origin label, Dusk, guitarist Corey Christiansen once again reveals his penchant for creating vast, inviting soundscapes, slightly twinged with earthy folk melodies, and grounded in an eclectic blend of open-air grooves and floating broken swing. Christiansen’s ability to craft a warm and capacious sonic space with his ensembles provides cohesiveness to his recordings that results in a true “album” in the classic sense of one unified work.
01 Turtle Dove
02 Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby
05 Black-eyed Susan
07 Skinny Big
08 Not Whatever
Opens the record with an effervescent and circular vamp that sets up its optimistic melody chorus, but not much more than a minute in, the pleasant theme breaks down into an edgy John Scofield-esque groove, the place where the meat of the solos will transpire.
“Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby”
Returns to the source of much of his two of his prior records “Lone Prairie” and “Factory Girl”, both of which use traditional folk/western songs for their points of departure. This rendition juxtaposes the “old-time” tune and a post-modern effects driven electric guitar with a ¾ back beat feel, chopping wood, as it were, with a cross-stick every third beat.
A short, mournful guitar cadenza serves as a precursor to one of the darker pieces on the album which seems to be loosely based on the chord progression to Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Softly As In a Morning Sunrise” from the 1928 operetta “The New Moon.”
Weaves between a smooth pop opening statement and an intermittently more intricate melodic line that belies many of the record’s more singsong melodies, meanwhile, the tranquil groove remains relatively homogenous throughout.
Jumps out as an extroverted and energetic modal jam, again featuring a Scofield-ish interlude, before getting down to the business of some of the album’s more long-form improvisations. What starts out as a raucous groove, eventually gives way to a double-time minor blues solo section that has been percolating just under the surface the entire time. Here Christiansen separates himself from many of contemporaries as his transition into the realm of swing sounds and feels natural and complete. His vocabulary and delivery gravitates seamlessly from the funky to the melancholy to the straight ahead with uncommon grace.
Works as a ballad offering in this setting, blending subtle altered harmonies over a simple straight eighth pulse. This track shows off the warmth of the ensemble’s blend and core instrumental sounds and serves as a perfect sonic foil to the surrounding selections.
Is another minor blues in a thin and funky disguise, a chance for the band to stretch out and tip their hats to Scofield, while never sacrificing the core sound and ambience of the group.
Is a final restless statement in ballad form, winding down the recording on a quiet and somber note, a trace of Ellington and hint of Hotel California. Here the pace is even slower and the mood darker, less of the clever altered harmony and more of the soul of the old western frontier songs that seem to hold such sway on the ensemble’s sensibilities.
As a soloist and composer, Christiansen demonstrates a patient and deliberate sense of time and melody, never seeming in a hurry, yet seldom lingering too long on any one groove or idea. The effect is relaxed but never overstays its welcome. Because the personnel on the album could all be considered virtuoso players in their own right, the technical demands of the music never approach the limits of the band’s capabilities. The result is effortless and beautiful.