There’s a line ripped from the lowest string of a guitar, somewhere between a flutter and a machine gun. The notes rise and fall, like they’re trying to say something. A chirp. Another, interrupting. Now more and more, like hail from the leading edge of an approaching storm. The notes get sharper, more intense, and there are more of them, until it’s hard to imagine at times how one player is making all that sound. It’s the product of a lot of practice, of a rigorous approach to the instrument.
But then there’s the title of the piece: “Blades, Meet Fingers.” It’s the first cut off Chris Cretella’s latest solo release, Just Trying to Hold It Together in the Face of Total Collapse, and as improvisational and spontaneous as the playing is, the blend of the serious and the ridiculous is no accident.
“Goodbye Sky,” from the New Haven-based Head with Wings’s latest album, From Worry to Shame, starts with the dynamic that drives the song: Joshua Corum’s and Brandon Cousino’s guitars weaving their lines together. Andrew Testa’s drums come in, spacious and crackling, Joe Elliott’s bass rumbling underneath. And then the vocals, direct and honest, electric with emotion.
“Find me underneath,” Corum sings. “Her body lies still. / The findings are impure as hell. / Goodbye sky. / You’re so far from here. / When lights go out, / you’re darkening all that I fear.”
The Sawtelles’ “Lose Her” starts with Peter Riccio’s jangling guitar — once upon a time it was a banjo — letting a set of descending chords move through open strings. Julie Riccio’s drums pick up after one revolution. It starts to sound like a journey already, and sure enough, it is.
“Driving back toward my hometown,” Peter sings. “the mills are closed and the industry’s gone now / It’s fall and everything’s turning brown / The car advances like a magnet pulls it down.”
For Peter, the imagery in “Lose Her” isn’t an apocryphal American highway. It’s Route 8, following the Naugatuck River back to Shelton, where he grew up.
The chords that start “Comfortable,” the first song from Manny James’s latest album, Church Street South, are pure bedroom. A melody line purrs in the background, held up by crooning voices. Then the beat drops, and James’s voice comes in strong. “If you feel that comfortable, you ain’t got to go nowhere,” he sings. “Let’s do what we came here to do.”
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Bob Gorry’s journey into improvised music started with his ears. Nineteen years ago, the guitarist and engineer picked up the slot for a jazz show on WNHU. He started off playing classic jazz albums, then moved on to records that “young lions,” like Wynton Marsalis, were making.
“And then I started hearing some of these other things, that were jazz and related to jazz and improvised music, and I really connected with it,” Gorry (pictured on right) said. “And then at some point I was going to play with people, and then just started playing, and I made the connections in my head — both ‘I’m doing this already,’ and ‘these other people can do it and I can see what might be possible.’”
Isabella Mendes’s life has never been without music. “The running joke in the family is that the first word that I said was ‘piano,’” she said. “Every toy store that I went to, I always looked for the little keyboard. That’s always been my passion, since very young.”