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Jacob Garchik: Ye Olde

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Jacob Garchik’s vision has yielded arrangements for the Kronos Quartet, performances with everyone from Henry Threadgill to Lee Konitz and an inventive tribute to the trombone-choir gospel tradition wherein Garchik plays all the instruments. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the trombonist’s new effort treads onto progressive-rock territory, utilizing three adventurous guitarists.

But that’s only half of it. Ye Olde is a concept album, with a theme worthy of the heyday of prog-rock, albeit with tongue wedged firmly in cheek. Inspired by the preponderance of faux Medieval architecture in Brooklyn, Garchik envisions his quintet as Gen-X warriors on a quest to protect the character of these buildings from arch villains who would cover them in vinyl siding. The plot (in 14 tracks) involves a possum, a Lady of the Lake and other beings, all mapped out in a poem on the cover.

The musical manifestation of the concept brings together guitarists Brandon Seabrook, Mary Halvorson and Jonathan Goldberger and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza. Things vary from droning power chords to urgent, single-note strumming, finally climaxing majestically in a bolero-esque riff. The group avoids overload, as the guitarists all play distinct parts, with their fearless leader’s trombone blasting above the fray. Garchik even overdubs an entire brass choir to contrast the unsettling Philip Glass-like arpeggio of one track. Three interludes run the gamut from Raymond Scott playfulness to spaghetti-Western twang. Had Garchik approached this concept with utmost earnestness, both concept and execution would have collapsed in bombast. But-commentary on gentrification aside-he doesn’t take things too seriously and puts the message across in a tight 37 minutes. Ye Olde rocks.

Originally Published