Tyshawn Sorey
482 Music : 2009

TS, drums; Todd Neufeld, electric and classical guitars; Thomas Morgan, double bass and classical guitar.

We’re pleased to continue previews of extraordinary upcoming albums with several tracks from Tyshawn Sorey’s Koan, which will be released in September on 482 Music.

Tyshawn Sorey is best known as an extraordinary drummer, having performed with Muhal Richard Abrams, Mark Helias, Butch Morris, Steve Lehman, Dave Douglas, Steve Coleman, Wadada Leo Smith, and many others. The New York Times recently dubbed him one of “five drummers whose time is now.” But Sorey’s composition skills are equally formidable, evidenced on his work in Fieldwork (a collaborative project with Steve Lehman and  Vijay Iyer) and his solo debut That/Not.

He’s taken a new turn on Koan – de-emphasizing drums, spotlighting guitars, and embracing an almost minimalist aesthetic. The tunes are hauntingly spare, radiating a gentle beauty where each gesture carries maximum weight. You can get a sense of the album’s range from the brief solo guitar piece “Only One Sky” and the open improvisational environment of “Correct Truth.”

This deeply challenging music demands to be taken on its own terms. In his essay “Music and Meaning” – to be released later this year in John Zorn’s Arcana IV – Tyshawn writes: “I want to create music for a person who simply listens without desire for anything, appreciating the sounds simply for what they are, not necessarily for what they do.” Koan fulfills this Zen challenge.

And now we turn it over to Tyshawn, for more background on this fascinating music:

Part of this has to do with my avoidance of hierarchy in the overall shape of the music on this album. As a drummer, I’d like to think of myself as being equal to the compositional design and to the other improvisers, whether I compose the music or not. Similarly, in a more radical way, I’ve began creating compositions that can be performed with OR without drums… because in my music, I feel that the drums are becoming less important. Composition would be my feature “instrument,” perhaps.

But that does not mean that there will NEVER be any recordings of my music where my drumming IS featured. My work as a composer deals with many different ideas and encompasses many different types of music. It is now only a matter of having the opportunity available to document as much of these ideas – so that my work as a drummer OR as a composer is not seen as going only in one direction.

This was a project that the three of us mutually wanted to do for some time, but could never get around to it due to our consistently busy schedules. However, through Thomas’ recommendation, we were finally brought together in a quartet led by Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser in late 2007. I felt that the connection among the three of us was there, from the very first note, as if we were playing together for many years. The point was to create an intimate musical environment in which the three of us can articulate our musical personalities in the most natural way possible. The music is about the three of us – TOGETHER.

I wanted to do a recording that had no front line of any sort, because I thought that we were already covering so much ground as improvisers, both collectively and in our own right, and that it was not necessary to add more to the mix. Todd and Thomas are musicians who, in my opinion, make careful musical decisions, but in the most natural way – with no particular agenda or goal that can create a potential negative effect on the music.

The music I wrote for this session did not require any extensive rehearsal. Due to our busy schedules, we somehow managed to have only one short rehearsal before going into the studio! The reason I wanted to do it this way was because I wanted to record the music while it was still fresh and not over-rehearsed. Most of the tracks were done in one or two takes. It’s certainly the first time I’ve ever done a session like this. My intent with Koan was to do something drastically different from That/Not, my previous recording of music using more elaborate forms and intricate through-composed pieces.

Compositionally, I want to create a music where everything changes, and nothing changes, at the same time. The music should make it possible for those listening to lose all sense of place and time outside of the music itself.

We will be performing at The Stone on August 5 at 10 p.m., and on August 28 at 10 p.m. with special guest Masabumi Kikuchi (piano) – these are the first and last performances of the year with both of these groups.

Those in NY and vicinity, get your Sorey on in August. Tyshawn Sorey is curating the month of August at The Stone, and debuting a new multi-chapter work there entitled “Wu-Wei.” This will be a remarkable chance to see Sorey in a variety of contexts.

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