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

Brandon Seabrook Trio: Convulsionaries (Astral Spirits)

Review of the Brooklyn guitarist's first album with cellist Daniel Levin and bassist Henry Fraser

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Cover of the Brandon Seabrook Trio album Convulsionaries
Cover of the Brandon Seabrook Trio album Convulsionaries

For the last decade, Brooklyn-based guitarist Brandon Seabrook has been a ubiquitous workhorse in New York City’s avant underground, with a ballooning oeuvre. In his powerhouse trio Seabrook Power Plant, prog rock was dissected with hardcore punk intensity, and more recently, his metal chops were in full throttle on Die Trommel Fatale and in Needle Driver, a trio he shares with prolific drummer and composer Allison Miller. While those two groups were hotwired by primal drum thwacks, Seabrook has gone drumless with the debut of his new trio, whose dense sound-world is a strange hybrid in which contemporary classical, free improv, metal, and jazz converge.

On the sprawling Convulsionaries, the guitar speed demon has found a sublime synergy with a pair of virtuosic heavyweights, cellist Daniel Levin and bassist Henry Fraser. Through six snaking tracks, Seabrook thrashes out off-kilter notes with bionic quickness and precision. Referencing other guitarists would be an exercise in futility, but Seabrook has been mentioned as carrying the six-string torch of Nels Cline. It’s a fair assessment, as Convulsionaries features some Cline-like space-jazz and twangy flashes, but Seabrook really has more in common with Mary Halvorson (particularly her metal-influenced solo set from 2015, Meltframe) and Mick Barr (of black metal titans Krallice).

Levin and Fraser are fine foils to Seabrook, and the presence of a drummer is certainly not missed on shifting-time-signature tunes like the sinister, slow-building “Groping at a Breakthrough,” which suggests the soundtrack of an Alfred Hitchcock film, and the head-spinning “Vulgar Mortals” and “Crux Accumulator.” The brutal physicality, semi-controlled chaos, and symphonic ecstasy of Convulsionaries fall more in the avant-metal and classical music realm than jazz. Its spasmodic fits and spurts are not for the squeamish, but its dazzling and combustible interplay clinches Seabrook’s place among today’s young guitar greats.

Preview or download Convulsionaries on Amazon!

Originally Published