From New Amsterdam: Subtle Degrees “A Dance That Empties”

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Subtle Degrees A Dance That Empties |

New Amsterdam is excited to celebrate A Dance That Empties, the debut album from new two-musician ensemble Subtle Degrees, consisting of Travis Laplante (tenor saxophone) and Gerald Cleaver (drums).

The album is now available on digital + CD formats via NewAm, and on vinyl via NNA Tapes.

A Dance That Empties is the culmination of a very long musical relationship. In 2001, when he was only 18 years old, Laplante played a concert at New York’s Knitting Factory, then a pre-eminent mecca for adventurous music of all kinds. Cleaver was in the audience, and came up to Laplante afterwards, handed him his phone number and said they should play together sometime. They soon did, “and I felt a very intimate and spiritual connection with Gerald that feels more alive than ever today,” Laplante says. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount from Gerald and have long considered him one of my favorite living improvisers.”

The two have performed together various times over the ensuing 17 years, but Laplante never felt he was quite ready to record with Cleaver. “It got to the point where I took a multiple-year break from playing with him because I felt like I didn’t have enough to bring to the table,” says Laplante. “I needed to practice so I could have more to give to our musical relationship.” Then, in the fall of 2016, Laplante received a commission to compose a piece to be performed at Roulette in Brooklyn the following spring. “I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to return to this relationship with Gerald.” And so Laplante began composing an epic-scale work work with Cleaver’s rhythmic virtuosity in mind.

Inspired by the longer durational forms of spiritual ceremonies, A Dance That Empties is a continuous journey that unfolds over 43 minutes, with musical motifs that foreshadow, recur, and evolve. The piece refines sonic territory that Laplante has pioneered in his celebrated saxophone quartet Battle Trance, as well as his solo saxophone work, utilizing long passages of circular breathing and other extended techniques to create specific and yet ineffable emotional and sonic resonances. A Dance That Empties, as the title implies, adds the distinctly new element of complex rhythmic pulses precisely and expressively executed by Cleaver, that compel listeners to lose themselves in the hypnotically repetitive yet subtly shifting grooves.

With A Dance That Empties, Laplante and Cleaver throw themselves into unknown territory, delving further into the devotional intensity that has long distinguished both their work.

Travis Laplante on Subtle Degrees:

“Playing in this duo with Gerald is by far the most exposing musical experience I’ve ever had. I think it feels so raw and vulnerable because it has a similar nakedness to playing solo, while at the same time I’m completely relying on and needing to stay connected with Gerald, no matter what. It requires 100% trust in another person, as well as myself. Our respective parts in A Dance That Empties are so meticulously interwoven that it can potentially be disastrous if one of us makes even a tiny mistake. It feels like the riskiest piece I’ve ever written in terms of the psychological, emotional, physical and sensory demands.”

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Travis Laplante is a saxophonist, composer, and qigong practitioner living in Brooklyn, New York and southern Vermont. He leads Battle Trance, the acclaimed tenor saxophone quartet; he is also known for his solo saxophone work and his longstanding ensemble Little Women. Laplante has recently performed and/or recorded with Trevor Dunn, Ches Smith, Peter Evans, So Percussion, Gerald Cleaver, Michael Formanek, Buke and Gase, Darius Jones, Mat Maneri, and Matt Mitchell, among others. He has toured his music extensively and has appeared at major international festivals such as Moers Festival (Germany), Jazz Em Agosto (Portugal), International Jazz Festival Saalfelden (Austria), Hopscotch (Raleigh, NC), Earshot (Seattle, WA), and many others.

Popmatters hailed Laplante’s compositions as “an achievement not just for the saxophone, but for avant garde composition as a whole” while the New York Times called Battle Trance’s debut album Palace of Wind “mesmerizing… a floating tapestry of fascinating textures made up of tiny musical motifs, and a music that throbs with tension between stillness and agitation, density and light.”

Laplante has served as guest faculty at the Royal Academy of Music (Aarhus, Denmark), Dartmouth College, and The New School. As a qigong student of master Robert Peng, Laplante has undergone traditional intensive training. His focus in recent years, under the tutelage of Laura Stelmok, has been on Taoist alchemical medicine and the cultivation of the heart. Laplante is passionate about the intersection of music and medicine. He and his wife are the founders of Sword Hands, a qigong and acupuncture healing practice based in Brooklyn, New York and Putney, Vermont.

Gerald Cleaver is one of the New York jazz scene’s leading drummer and composers, who covers a wide range of stylistic ground. Having played with jazz masters Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris and Ray Bryant as well as the leading lights of the AACM, Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Threadgill, he is a product of many traditions within creative music.

Cleaver is known for his associations with Roscoe Mitchell, Charles Gayle, Miroslav Vitous, Mario Pavone, William Parker, Michael Formanek, Joe Morris, Jeremy Pelt, Craig Taborn and Yaron Herman. He is also the leader of the bands Uncle June (a reflection on the personal and familial challenges of Black Americans during The Great Migration featuring Tony Malaby, Andrew Bishop, Mat Maneri, Craig Taborn and Drew Gress), Violet Hour (a tribute to Detroit featuring Jeremy Pelt, JD Allen, Andrew Bishop, Ben Waltzer and Chris Lightcap), Black Host (a noisy avant-garde group featuring Pascal Niggenkemper, Cooper-Moore, Darius Jones and Brandon Seabrook) and Farmers By Nature (a free-improvising collective co-led with bassist William Parker and pianist Craig Taborn).

For new music by living composers
newsounds.org from New York Public Radio

For great Jazz
WPRB

Dan Buskirk Spinning Jazz Mondays 11:00AM-1:00PM
Will Constantine Jr, Blues Bop and Beyond Thursdays 11:00-2:00 featuring Latin Jazz
Jerry Gordon Serenade to a Cookoo Frdays 11:00AM-2:00PM with Jerry’s Room at 1:00Pm
Jeannie Becker Sunday Jazz 10:00AM-1:00Pm

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