Kevin Norton’s illustrious alliances with major names of today’s jazz and improvisation do not prevent his sense of responsibility towards a listener from delivering music that will never be stamped as “superficial”. Throughout his career the composer, percussionist and teacher has been looking for junctions between intuition, intellect, individual remembrance and meaningful cultural reference. This release is no exception.
In a nutshell, what you get is the recording of a concert held at New York’s Roulette on September 2016. Norton released it in the digital format as a sign of trust for the inquisitiveness of bona fide supporters of serious art. The program – offered exactly as it was performed, without any further intervention – is informed by personal reflections merged with the customary qualities that define the leader’s output.
In a way this might be imagined as the artist’s attempt to merge the main traits of his current research with issues related to the revisitation of places and sensations from the area where he grew up. Norton’s readings of that period – books by Marshall Berman, Morris Berman and McKenzie Wark – constitute an additional (and basically unexplained) influence across the set. There are different kinds of score, each with its unique sonic genetics, from small chamber interaction to a truly “in the moment” type of lucidly executed jazz. Interspersed with the instrumental tracks we find gentle tunes sung with appreciable modesty by guitarist Julia Simoniello, the lyrics rather cryptic for this writer. My favorite lines are:
No John Cale, Church Of Anthrax
Ghost Of Mother, Ever Present
Ghost Of Father, Hardly There
A curiosity: prior to reading the actual words my pitifully Italian ears kept mishearing “Ghost Of Mother” as “Gustav Mahler” (!)
The arrangements are nearly perfect, at once lean and dignified. The combination of spaciousness, moderate dissonance and unadorned poetry warrants long stretches of sheer aural pleasure. The kind of pleasure that only listening to a good album in total awareness can offer.
The players – besides Norton and Simoniello, Angelica Sanchez, Esther Noh and Steve LaSpina – are focused, reactive and sensible to the slightest acoustic nuance. One can veritably feel inside the live audience: surrounded by beautiful sounds resonating within an intelligible counterpoint, ultimately comforted by musicians whose sincerity runs parallel to their skilful brilliance. Staten Island: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air offers all of the above and much more, confirming Norton as a leading figure of the “humbly tenacious” party.