There are many great minds who experience music with an ear for the intellectual and technical, focusing on intonation, time signature changes, key changes, theoretical analysis of composition, and tracing the roots of influence. Some readers find that sort of thing dry- not me. I've learned enough to dabble in those waters by reading that kind of explanation and find the science behind the art fascinating.
I could get sopout my Jazz-English dictionary and give a rudimentary explanation of what's happening and how it's being done. I could also give you the Dick Clark American Bandstand"It's got a good beat but I wouldn't want to dance to it" summation but that's not how I experience Barrett Martin Group's sophomore release Artifacts.
I hear sounds shifting, creating movement and becoming motion, painting moving pictures not constrained by the straight-line continuum of time.
The great composers and historians could break this down into equations and charts but I don't see treble clefs and notes on a page. I experience tangible exhilarating when the music surprises and carries me, when notes move up instead of down or an instrument is used in an unusual way or is cast in a role I didn't anticiapte. It's why it doesn't matter that vocalist Mehnaz Hoosein sings in a language I don't speak. Her vocals, chants, and incantations express meaning beyond translated words and remind us the human voice is a more expressive instrument than any man or machine have constructed.
If their debut Atlas: Latitudes took us on a journey, its follow-up Artifacts exists as the philosophical and musical souvenirs we returned with. The voyages transform from sights to sounds, from sounds to experiences that combine ancient, sacred rhythms married to modern arrangements with melodies and improvisation that conjure timeless spirits.
Martin has always been generous on his solo records, allowing his talented musical companions plenty of opportunities to bring their instrumental and interpretive gifts to his compositions. Maybe I've listened to rock records for too long or believed too many stories of dictatorial bandleaders but his generosity is even more evident with the players in this band. He worked with many of them on his solo albums but this is a band record with a democratic approach where the player is subordinate to the moment and the music.
"Float Like A Butterfly" opens Artifact in a bold manner, reminiscent of the way "Muhammad Ali" christened Martin's solo debut The Painted Desert. The two compositions do more than share a tie to the greatest of all time. They're distinct from one another but "Float" riffs on themes from its predecessor while exploring new musical ground with prominent performances from guitarist Paul Fischer and trumpeter Dave Carter. Fischer's quick, thick chording forms the background for "Way Down" with Carter's trumpet, at times in tandem with Ed Ulman's trombone, carrying the majority of the melodic load. Hoosein's hypnotic vocal passages in "Lotus Eater" are made more mystical with help from Ben Thomas' vibraphone accompinament
"Voodoo Charm" and "Dark Forest" are as musically evocative as their titles and are my favorite compositions on the record. Thomas' subliminal vibes work can be felt beneath the more prominent horn and organ work on "Voodoo." They are a little more prominent in the midsection of "Dark Forest," serving as a bridge between verses. "Ghost Mountain" is a more harrowing journey and is a showcase for Martin's percussion skills and instincts as well as his work with clay flutes.
Artifacts is what every band hopes their second album wishes for, taking what was good about their debut and pushing forward, reaching further, and expanding their sound without losing their identity. It is an exotic mixture of sounds and ideas, pushing boundaries of what's possible while remaining accessible. Buy the ticket and take the trip with Barrett Martin Group. Begin the voyage of discovery with Atlas and return home with timeless Artifacts.