It’s fitting that trumpeter Samantha Boshnack has dubbed her new seven-piece collective Seismic Belt. Her thinking is steeped in the epic, both musically sprawling and conceptually deep, and inspired by hometown hiking expeditions that took her to Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and beyond. On these excursions she developed a fascination with volcanoes and earthquakes, and on Live in Santa Monica she seeks to examine “our relationship with the Earth, including the elements of risk and faith in that uneasy cohabitation,” as she writes in the liner notes.
While Live in Santa Monica features titles like “Submarine Volcano” and pays homage to volcanic environs (“Kamchatka” is named after a Russian peninsula, “Choro” after an island in Chile), its eight pieces are more breezy than explosive. There are no searing moments that conjure images of erupting lava. What Boshnack and her nimble band of tenor and baritone saxophones, violin, viola, double bass, and drums expertly sculpt is a harmonious sound world that is bucolic yet turbulent. Informed by traditional jazz stylings but with free-improvisational underpinnings, they immediately establish themselves as a well-oiled unit marked by tremendous interplay on the stately 10-minute opening track, “Subduction Zone,” which sets the mood for the program.
Boshnack leads the fray, gliding and darting atop the loose-limbed structures with elegant lines that recall her childhood heroes Chet Baker and Miles Davis. But while she dazzles as both leader and trumpet wunderkind, it’s the rapport she shares with the group that’s most worthy of attention. Plenty of space is given to her bandmates to shine, and each takes star-making turns throughout the set. Seismic Belt may not deal in volcanic force, but it hurtles from jazz to classical to chamber music with aplomb.