While some chatter on about “spiritual jazz,” drummer/composer Ted Poor actually makes it on his unlikely New Deal/Impulse! debut. Not only are You Already Know’s nine tracks profound and moving, but their construction also has an unusual back story—with equally unusual instrumentation. Poor typically divides time between his own music, that of indie pop stars and producers, drumming for Chris Thile’s cornball but popular radio show Live from Here, and his role as assistant professor of jazz studies at the University of Washington, which makes this album that much more of a surprise.
With talented trickster tenor/alto saxophonist/bass clarinetist Andrew D’Angelo performing on most songs (which usually lack bass-range instruments), some might label the music avant-garde, but it’s pure folk. Using his drums as conductor, melody purveyor, and good vibrations emitter, Poor sets up a rhythmic/melodic motif, to which violinist Andrew Bird—who guests on “To Rome”—or D’Angelo or multi-instrumentalist Rob Moose add or subtract. As Poor deepens and expands the rhythmic pocket/melodic web, the songs float, pulsate, and glow like magic UFOs.
“Reminder” sounds like a bastardized standard (“Clouds”?), woeful horn intoning over rumbling drums and calming cymbals, the lost soundtrack to a sleepy séance. Poor triggers Elvin Jones-like quakes on “Emilia,” his tightly tuned toms popping as his cymbals echo and chime, with D’Angelo’s soul-drunk horn overhead. “Kasia” takes the album to the Grand Canyon, epic saxophone decay trails an exercise in drone therapy, followed by Poor’s shamanic brushes and shakers. “New Wonder” takes advantage of Sound City Studio’s fabled echo chamber, Poor’s drums thrumming and pounding like a chant, D’Angelo’s horn echoing off the walls.
Intimate, involving, and lasting, You Already Know balms the senses, wakes them up, slaps them around, and offers positive affirmations.