Music for Anxious Times
by Bob Pomeroy
I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. Work, the elections, melting glaciers are all swimming around in my noggin making me a ball of anxiety. Being a music writer helps, because sometimes, just the right music for the moment magically arrives in the mail. These calming jazz recordings have helped me through these anxious days and nights.
Dutch trumpeter Eric Vloeimans and American accordionist Will Holshouser have released an excellent album called Two for the Road. The album was recorded live at tour stops around the Netherlands. The music feels very European. It allows me to drift away to memories of lounging in an Amsterdam café listening to the buskers on the street.
All About Jazz has described Vloeimans as one of Europe’s best trumpeters, with an easy-going attitude and great sense of humor. That sense of humor can be found in Two for the Road’s version of the Muppet classic, “Rainbow Connection.” Vloeimans’ foil on this album is Will Holshouser, an American accordionist who has worked with everyone from Suzanne Vega to Anthony Braxton. With the exception of the Muppet song, all the compositions are by Eric or Will.
I really love the interplay of Will’s reedy tone and Eric’s trumpet. The tunes on Two for the Road are relaxed and dreamy, just the sort of thing I need to hear while navigating rush hour traffic.
Josh Sinton’s solo album, Steve Lacy’s Book of Practioners, Vol, 1 “H” is not relaxing in the same way as Eric and Will’s record. It is a recording for solo baritone saxophone based on a collection of Steve Lacy compositions that were designed to challenge the player. As a throw-down challenge from one sax man to the generations, there is a lot of range in the sounds being produced. Most of the time Josh makes the pieces melodic and pleasing. Sometimes they drift into some pretty out-there places.
What I like about this album, even if it sometimes sounds like Josh is practicing scales, is the rich, reedy tone of his baritone sax. I don’t mind the occasional squeals and farts Sinton makes when he takes his horn into extended technique territory. I find the record of rather out-there compositions to be calming and relaxing.
Glenn Dickson’s debut solo album, Wider than the Sky, may be my top chill out album of the year. I’ve had anxiety about driving lately, and I find Glenn’s music calms and centers me. This is a major shift from Dickson’s previous recording with both traditional and experimental Klezmer bands.
Wider than the Sky is Glenn playing solo clarinet with live electronics. The atmospheres Dickson creates for his songs remind me of Brian Eno’s ambient work like Music for Airports. It’s a slowly moving cascade of sound. I imagine the backing electronics to be drifting clouds of sound. I like the contrast between the woody sound of the clarinet and the electronic sounds.
These are trying times for all of us. I always find refuge in music and art. Do whatever helps you stay sane, and we’ll get through this together.