Thursday March 21, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The inspiration for Joshua Kwassman’s new CD "Songs of the Brother Spirit" began with a bad trip.

In August 2010, Kwassman and Justin, a childhood friend he idolized, decided to take a three-day, 150-mile bike ride.

"We wanted to have one last hurrah. We weren’t prepared, and it became dangerous," said Kwassman, in an interview Monday afternoon.

Kwassman and his buddy came through OK, but as events unfolded, their friendship changed. Once he idolized his pal, Kwassman now stands with him, as an equal.

"I kind of accepted myself as the sole controller of me," said Kwassman, glad that the friendship survives. "The overwhelming feeling of brotherhood is what kept us together."

That story of that trip is told in "The Nowhere Trail," a three-part suite which forms the climax of "Songs of the Brother Spirit," the new CD just released on Truth Revolution Records.

Kwassman will bring his sextet to the Vermont Jazz Center this Saturday for an 8 p.m. concert that celebrates the release of the CD.

The unique ensemble features Kwassman on alto and soprano saxophone, soprano and contra-alton clarinet, melodica, flute and ocarina, Jeff Miles on guitar, Angelo Di Loreto on piano, Craig Akin on bass, Rodrigo Recobarren on drums and Arielle Feinman on glockenspiel and vocals (she doesn’t sing; she vocalizes syllables and sounds).

"It’s definitely jazz, but it’s long-form extended composition.


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It’s almost symphonic jazz," said Kwassman. "It definitely doesn’t sound like a typical group."

Kwassman studied at NYU, where he earned his Masters in the jazz program. He has since received two ASCAP Young Jazz Composer awards and performed with artists like Badal Roy, Ingrid Jensen, Mark Turner, and Geoffrey Keezer. But his main focus is on his own music, which reflects a wide range of influences from the innovative big band work of Maria Schneider and Darcy James Argue to forward-thinking composers like Pat Metheny and Brian Blade. Classical composers like Ravel and Rachmaninoff figure in, as well.

"Songs of the Brother Spirit" evidences a gift for vivid communication and transporting emotional colors. As Kwassman stated, "My goal is always to tell a story."

Tickets to Saturday’s show at the Vermont Jazz Center are $10, free for students.

For more information, visit www.joshuakwassman.com.

-- Jon Potter