Trombonist Christian Pincock covered a lot of bases during his years in Albuquerque, gigging with an off-center wedding band, performing freely improvised solo work while linked to a
gaggle of electronic devices, playing mainstream jazz in ensembles big and small, and sharing the stage with the likes of Bobby Shew, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Alan Pasqua.
Pincock relocated to Seattle within the last year, but not before recording an impressive album of original material with a cohort of primo musicians living in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
Plentiful Excitement, Christian Pincock (independent)
The poor trombone doesn’t get out in front too much these days. It too often gets cast in the role of comic relief, bleating baleful
wah-wah-wahs and providing running ironic commentary on what the saxophone,
trumpet, or clarinet is doing.
In the hands of a technically proficient,
emotionally mature, and truthful player, the trombone is more than capable of holding center stage with its warmth, expressiveness, and human timbre—as Christian Pincock demonstrates on his latest recording, Plentiful Excitement. The album features Pincock on valve ’bone, Robert Muller on piano, Mark Weaver on tuba, and Rick Compton on drums.
Pincock prefers the valve ’bone to the slide. The latter is louder and easier to play in tune, he says, but for him, the valved instrument is a more expressive horn. “The valves make me want to play melody,” says Pincock—and play it he does. With a velvety, understated tone, an
economy of notes, and a well-articulated attack, he conveys a rich emotional life.
The album presents six new compositions. Well, maybe not that new, as some of them have been continually undergoing revisions for up to a decade. Whatever their age, these are
mature works that represent the culmination of a dedicated artistic process, and they share some attractive family characteristics: seamless development, miscegenated bloodlines, and a mainstream accessibility informed by intellectual rigor and adventurousness.
The tunes unfold in what seems to be an effortlessly organic—not to be confused with
predictable—way, but years of paring, rearranging, and reworking have made that possible. New sections seem to arise like tiny bubbles of thought, expanding as they climb to the surface to deliver their message.
Each tune, says Pincock, began with a relatively simple idea—melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic—and each followed its own particular “gestation process.” They all incorporate accents from Pincock’s musical explorations across genres as diverse as Hindustani music, European classics, the American songbook, and experimental electronica. You’ll even hear a touch of clave on
“Entertaining Company,” which Pincock subversively displaces.
Pincock’s laconic opening on that tune describes lovely, lazy arcs over a lively tuba line. Muller opens his solo in a
meditation that builds into a vigorous, two-fisted finish.
Pincock’s solo, over a rumbling rhythm section, returns to a meditative state carried on long, smooth lines. In every
composition, from the swinging “Song for Deian” to the
foreboding, trance-inducing “Virtual Religion,” these kinds of carefully constructed contrasts in energy levels—between consecutive sections or between instruments concurrently—keep the ear engaged and refreshed.
“All these tunes are reminders for me,” Pincock says, “of something that happened, or to remember to do something or be a certain way. Like ‘Lily Bakes a Pie’ is a reminder to me to enjoy things in life, a reminder to live life.” That tune evolves through a flourish of preparation, a thoughtful reflection, rising anxiety, and resolution—all with a distinctly personal emotional life.
The sidemen provide all the support the leader could hope for. Muller brings a spritely, spiky energy that contrasts nicely with the mellower qualities of tuba and ’bone. His adventurous, muscular solos incorporate elements from bebop to funk, with touches of hip-hop attitude. Weaver supplies an expressive bottom on the tuba. Pincock was not so much interested in
using a tuba as he was in using Weaver, who, he knew, would bring just what the music
required. Pincock notes, however, that the tuba is capable of doing things that the standup bass cannot match, such as crescendos, and he took advantage of that in his writing. Compton brings a combustible energy that carries the music forward, swinging when it needs to swing, rocking when it needs to rock, and rolling when it needs to roll.
Because the standard jazz quartet has a sax or trumpet out front and a standup bass in the back, you may need to adjust the equalization knobs in your skull to get the sound right, but it’s an easy adjustment to make, especially when you have players of the caliber of Pincock and friends.
© 2013 Mel Minter. All rights reserved.