Brandon Seabrook Trio – ‘Convulsionaries’ (2018)

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feature photo: Richard Lenz

A trio is a fairly normal setup but there is nothing remotely normal about guitarist and noted banjo terrorist Brandon Seabrook. He enlists bassist Henry Fraser and cellist Daniel Levin to unveil his Brandon Seabrook Trio, which is essentially a string trio. All right, so a string trio isn’t such a wild idea, either, at least in chamber music circles. But the way it’s being used by the Brandon Seabrook Trio is bonafide wack. It’s akin to G.G. Allin hosting Masterpiece Theater.

Seabrook dusted off an 18th century word to come up for the title of his first album with this trio: Convulsionaries (September 21, 2018 Astral Spirits). Even if you don’t know what that word means, you’d likely find that the word fits the music, which is a little bit surprising way to describe an ensemble that lacks a bottom (i.e., no drums and sometimes no thumping bass). It does make sense in the larger context of Seabrook’s career, however: whenever he zigs as he did with his two-drummer combo Die Trommel Fatale, it’s only a matter of time before he zags. One consistency that remains firmly in place for Convulsionaries, and that is Seabrook plays guitar that’s extreme on both demented and virtuosic sides; if he’s not the king of free form guitar, he’s charging hard after the person who holds that crown.

That’s blindingly clear right off on “Bovicidal,” a math-y sequence of notes played in tight formation that soon dissipates into a loose conference and Seabrook splaying a rapid-fire volley of notes. “Groping At A Breakthrough” also vacillates between a pre-contemplated plan and letting go of it. It’s interesting to hear Seabrook strum away while Levin saws away and collectively, they’re more than making up for lack of percussion.

Both Fraser and Levin wield bows to portray a really knotty avant-classical pattern for “Crux Accumulator” that Seabrook pokes at with barbed lines. After a breather, the two bowers spark up an unbound conversation and Seabrook bullies his way into it. The usual clash of strings that launch “Vulgar Mortals” soon settles into a rare peacefulness, although an uneasy one. Without warning, the dense, sonic riot briefly returns but thicker than before. “Qorikancha” exchanges a quickened motif for a stretched out one, and ultimately, the players recede one by one until no one is left and a new, cagey section is launched which eventually loses all abandon.

“Mega Faunatic” begins with Levin and Fraser plucking thoughtfully together but when Levin goes to the bow for the next ostinato, the song picks up tempo and Seabrook joins in the interplay. Later on, Seabrook skitters at lightning speed first at the guitar’s highest registers and then on the lower ones, leaving no part of his instrument’s range unscathed.

Brandon Seabrook’s excursion into chamber music gleefully expels all the buttoned-up formality from the music form. All he needs are sympathetic partners such as Henry Fraser and Daniel Levin, and any kind of music becomes Brandon Seabrook music.


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 [email protected] .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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