The release of Action-Refraction (April 12th / Palmetto) marks gifted bassist, composer and bandleader Ben Allison s 10th album - and first collection of music by other artists. With nine critically acclaimed albums as a bandleader to his credit (the last six reaching #1 on the CMJ National Jazz radio chart), Allison has solidified his rep as a cutting edge composer. To celebrate his 10th, Ben has turned his ear towards the music of some of his favorite artists, creating an inspired, atmospheric - and at times, art-rock - mixtape featuring the music of PJ Harvey, Donny Hathaway, Thelonious Monk, Neil Young, Samuel Barber and Roger Nichols.
The idea was sparked when Ben wondered how it would sound 'to refract some of my favorite tunes through the prism of an electro-acoustic orchestra featuring two electric guitars, bass clarinet, saxophone, analog synthesizer, piano, acoustic bass and drums,' adds Ben. 'The album is full of 'happy accidents' unplanned moments that capture a musical conversation in flux.'
'Jackie-ing' by Monk is given an orchestrated intro reminiscent of 1960s Sci-Fi thriller music. A longtime PJ Harvey follower, 'Missed' is one of his favorites. 'Some Day We'll All Be Free' is melodic and driving, yet features noise collages made by an analog tape played through a guitar pick-up ('Donny Hathaway meets Pierre Schaeffer'). Recorded the same week as the historic Don't Ask Don't Tell vote, Ben remakes Neil Young's 'Philadelphia' by stripping it bare. 'St. Ita s Vision' (Samuel Barber) is a nod to Sun Ra and 'We've Only Just Begun' begins in three different tempos. 'Broken,' the lone original on the record, 'references the minimalism / process music of Karel Goeyvaerts,' says Allison. 'And its polar opposite - the work of Yngwie Malmsteen!'
Action-Refraction features Ben Allison on bass with Steve Cardenas (guitar), Rudy Royston (drums), Jason Lindner (keyboards), Michael Blake (bass clarinet, tenor sax) and, on two tracks, the addition of Brandon Seabook (guitar).