Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Robert Stillman: Horses

Like the band Tortoise, Robert Stillman creates music that could be labeled postrock, because his instrumentals have an ambitious, introspective quality that aims to create a vast soundscape. Yet they could be called jazz since these seven tracks incorporate improvisation and-on a more simplistic level-they employ the use of reeds.

Stillman once played with the Berklee-cum-New England Conservatory group Kalifactors, who recorded a mainstream disc for Fresh Sound. Primarily a tenor saxophonist, he also plays piano and drums on Horses. His plays long, spare tones on his tenor in “The Dance 1,” and in the context of this rigid waltz his restraint works as well as a carefully constructed solo would, creating a soundtrack that should accompany cinematic images. Later, “The Dance 2” begins like an off-the-cuff piano-and-drums duet and ends like an orchestrated piece, with pump organ, guitar and bass filling the sound.

The spareness isn’t always as productive. “Love Theme”‘s rubato Rhodes-and-tenor melody begins dreamily, only to drag on for an interminable nine minutes. “That’s Enough” gets stuck in a dogged two-chord riff as Stillman and clarinetist Jonathan Rossman casually noodle away.

Originally Published