Clear Line

Clear Line

Jacob Garchik is a top-call freelance trombonist with long experience in a host of big bands. On Clear Line, he realizes a big band conception of his own, with the intention of veering pretty far from the norm. Using a horns-only lineup with four trumpets, four trombones, and five saxophones, he follows syntactical rules of his own as he generates a musical parallel to the Ligne Claire illustration style of Hergé—“in which cartoonish characters are depicted against a realistic background, drawn with strong lines and solid colours.” It’s a style with manifold connections to sci-fi, art nouveau, and even 1920s commercial catalogue illustration. One can see it in the album cover image by Bodie Chewning, or in the track titles “Moebius and Mucha” and “Line Drawings of Paul Rudolph,” referring to other Ligne Claire exponents, precursors, or peripheral figures. Garchik is not among the trombonists on the album. Rather, he conducts a group packed with players acclaimed in their own right—like Roman Filiu, Anna Webber, and Adam O’Farrill—as they navigate original works devoid of stock gestures and devices of the big band idiom. The harmonies are fresh, the forms and structures unpredictable, with all manner of pairings and intra-ensemble combinations. Even with no rhythm section, the timekeeping is immaculate on such pieces as “Sixth” and the closing title track. With its striking tonal palette and prevailing ambiguous mood, the music reflects Garchik’s stated goal, in the manner of the Ligne Claire artists, of “translating three dimensions into two.”

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