Jeremy Carlstedt – Stars Are Far (2015)

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Jeremy Carlstedt was a key figure in Brian Settles/Central Union’s bold debut Secret Handshake and maybe it’s no surprise to find that Carlstedt’s own career is about risk taking and banishing boundaries. The drummer — a former protégé of the late, great Chico Hamilton — issued his own debut a year after Settles did his, an art-rock EP entitled When I Wake Up (2012), but we’re here to examine his first long player, the jazz-minded Stars Are Far.

With the saxophonist Settles himself on board on this album along with electric guitarist Tim Motzer and standup bassist Eric Wheeler, Stars adopts the fury and passion of mid-60s Coltrane and reconciles it ever so subtly to Carlstedt’s rock side. The explosiveness of the first two tracks in particular do a great job in establishing that what Trane was doing then wasn’t that far removed from what Hendrix was doing a scant couple of years later. Settles and Motzer offer up a unified counterpoint to Wheeler’s roving bass figures for “Dust,” after which Carlstedt launches into an Elvin Jones strong swing as Motzer’s rock guitar attack assets control, like a moment out of Sonny Sharrock’s Ask The Ages. The opening head of “Eggs and Grits” picks up where “Dust” left off and then goes off the abyss in free mode but without losing the melodic idea, which is allowed to mutate and evolve. Carlstedt leads the band into new directions in this four-way improv that simply flutters instead of scatters.

More echoes of late-period Coltrane can be found in the Interstellar Space-like sax-drums combustion “Open Road,” where Settles goes down a melodic path and Carlstedt’s unrestraint eventually entices the saxophonist to increase his. Conversely, Settles sits out of “The Photographer,” a rock ballad, dominated by Motzer’s slightly fuzzy soul tones.

Carlstedt’s palette for this album extends well beyond just a couple of influences, however, highlighted by a couple of interesting one-on-one’s between the drummer and guitarist. Motzer plays exotic, African folk instruments (or, so it sounds) on the peaceful “Refracting” over Carlstedt’s calypso beat. Ghostly shadings set “Four Point Two” in motion as Carlstedt’s brushes gently agitate from behind Motzer’s astral vibe.

Across these seven performances, the highly intuitive and forceful nature of Jeremy Carlstedt shines through to lend cohesion and makes Stars Are Far a gripping excursion that tests the limits of rock-jazz.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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