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Quinsin Nachoff’s Flux: Path of Totality (Whirlwind)

A review of the saxophonist-led group's second album

Path of Totality by Quinsin Nachoff's Flux
The cover of Path of Totality by Quinsin Nachoff’s Flux

In physics, flux is the movement and flow of radiant energy across a given area. In the mind of saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff, it’s a band of varying size uniquely qualified to explore a vast array of his latest concepts. Path of Totality doesn’t stint on this exploration—four of its six compositions go beyond 13 minutes.

Take “Bounce” as an example. Working with University of Toronto physicist Dr. Stephen Morris, Nachoff translated the mathematical model of a bouncing ball into music. Few percussionists are better for this endeavor than Kenny Wolleson, an original thinker who has invented his own “Wollesonic” collection of instruments—but add Kneebody timekeeper Nate Wood too. Nachoff and fellow saxophonist David Binney display their own sonic crossover dribbles while pianist Matt Mitchell comps the placeholder groove. A series of crescendos at the end is undergirded by Jason Barnsley stressing a 1924 Kimball theatre organ.

“Toy Piano Meditation” pivots from an opening reference to John Cage’s Suite for Toy Piano into one of Mitchell’s more majestic ivory journeys, laced with cymbal splashes, before yielding to the horns and everything from glockenspiel to Tibetan singing bowls from guest Mark Duggan. “Splatter” ransacks the keyboard collection of Canada’s National Music Centre (David Travers-Smith alone plays five different instruments), opens with a Mitchell harpsichord solo, and ends with eruptive chaos. “March Macabre,” a commentary on the Trump administration and totalitarianism, opens with a collection of clomping clogs Wollesen rigged together, closes with tap dancer Orlando Hernandez, and features Nachoff’s glorious, nearly unwieldy arrangement for nine horns played by seven people.

Sure, not all of this works to perfection, and you can’t get the context without the liner notes. But Nachoff doesn’t mind his reach occasionally exceeding his grasp. It keeps him limber, adding new pathways for the radiant energy to flow.

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Originally Published