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Nortonk - s/t (Biophilia)

23 June 2021

NYC quartet Nortonk takes its inspiration from classic chord-free quartets like Ornette Coleman’s classic foursome of the fifties and sixties, or more recent practitioners like Broken Shadows. That means there’s no obvious harmonic center to these young musicians’ performances, but that doesn’t mean the tracks are tonal chaos. The compositions of trumpeter Thomas Killackey, alto saxist Gideon Forbes, bassist Stephen Pale and drummers Steven Cramer, who convened at William Paterson University in New Jersey, move across melodies with firm spines that allow the players to meander as their improvisatory spirits see fit. Thus Killackey’s “Duzzh” hops friskily across its burbling rhythms as the hornmen spiral around each other, while Forbes’ “Spiders” crawls slowly with the instrumentation forming one shimmering, tuneful whole. Pale’s “Quat” twists the blues into a unique, but not inaccessible form, with trumpet and sax spinning off angular riffs. And while it may feel like the musicians are simply wandering aimlessly on Crammer’s “GLaDOS,” don’t be fooled – everyone has the same goal in mind, and head towards it with alacrity. Nortonk may not be easy listening, but even mildly careful attention reveals more tuneful depths than appear on the surface.

Note: though there is a physical package (made from recycled materials) for this release, the music is available only via a download code – there is no CD.


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