Album cover

Tragic Comedy

Ian Tordella Set to Release Second CD

By Dave Good | Posted February 16, 2012

In crafting the overall statement of Tragic Comedy, what influenced Tordella? “I don’t know.” He laughs. “I had originally planned some songs with guitars and some songs with piano but all the piano players I work with were out of town or unavailable at the time I booked the studio, so I went with two guitars.”

Influenced by the modern jazz sounds coming out of New York, Tordella shows vestiges of trad jazz and pop music as well. “It’s almost obligatory to do Radiohead and Bjork covers. I guess I got a little more esoteric in putting on the Stereolab covers.” He agrees that his quintet is...different. "This is going in the direction of weirdness, abstraction, and trip hop.”

But Tragic Comedy is not abstract to the point of being inaccessible -- and it could easily have gone in that direction. Yeah, there’s noise, but it is not gratuitous art noise for the sake of noise. Tordella’s players reign the sound in before it goes off into some form of useless discordance. In this case, the processed guitars add textures to the tracks not unlike the stuff one hears on South African pop recordings.

Then, this is most definitely a sax player album but where Tordella could rip and show off his chops he lays back and crafts deliberate, simple lines in renderings that are both clear and melodic. “A lot of jazz musicians want to play fast,” he says. “Testosterone music.” Tordella surely can do the testosterone thing but on this record he makes his horn sound aloof and almost melancholy in the way that electric violinist Jean Luc Ponti drenched an entire career with blue tones back in the 1970s. Is Tragic Comedy more tragic than comic?

“You’re not wrong.” He laughs. “I think in some of my writing, some of that comes out. It’s a collection of depressing tunes,” he finally says. “Tragic Comedy is about what it’s like to be a jazz musician today. You can do it, but you won’t get paid.”


Tragic Comedy : Ian Tordella and his band

By Robert Bush | Posted March 1, 2012

Saxophonist Ian Tordella's new CD is officially out today, and after last Friday's release-party, it seems that a dedicated review of the source material is warranted.

Tragic Comedy represents a new direction in jazz--it's not quite the "electric-space-jazz," that Tordella himself called it, but it isn't like anything else on the market, either.

Largely eschewing traditional elements like "walking" bass lines, or the familiar "ting-ting-a-ting" ride cymbal rhythms, Tragic Comedy also wholly embraces the input of two very electric guitarists, Jeff Miles and Joey Carano who have been given free-reign to create as much effects-pedal chaos as possible.

Tordella himself is a hard nut to crack, stylistically. There is a definite influence of Wayne Shorter in his playing, which he readily acknowledges. Tone-wise, there is a sweet, mid-range quality in his sound that has some Hank Mobley type flavor to it. He rarely engages in screaming or over-the-top types of affectation--when he does creep into the altissimo range of his tenor, it's usually in a contained manner. He seems to concentrate more on creating snaking, elliptical lines and avoiding clichés.

His writing is what really stands out in this release. The title track, with its winding, hyper-melodic theme, could be an out-take from trumpeter Kenny Wheeler's '80's classics "Widow In The Window," or "Double, Double You." Both guitarists turn in excellent, boundary pushing solos as well as out-of-the-box "comping".

Only one "standard" on the record, an ebullient, odd-meter push through "While We're Young," which features Danny Weller making his bass sound as big as a mountain and as woody as an old-growth Redwood.

There is a kind of melancholy prevalent throughout Tragic Comedy, with several ballad-tempo pieces, but things never degenerate into the maudlin.

Weller's loose stringed independent bass lines illuminate the straight-eight feel of "Spring Again," and the sensitive cymbal embellishment of Richard Sellers draws out the best in Tordella, who lays down a gorgeous essay before Carano takes it "out" with a slightly overdriven series of short repetitions that ratchet up the tension. Sellers responds to the gains in intensity with well-timed gun-shot accents and waves of tom-tom flourishes.

Miles penned the probing "Instead Of You," a pensive statement that wouldn't be out of place on Pat Metheny's "80-81." Tenor lines weave around the rolling arpeggios of the composer, before striking out into longs strands of melodic ideas. Miles' spot effortlessly navigates between bluesy staccato and ecstatic streams of dreamy legato before Tordella returns to take the melody out.

Very creative stuff. Highly recommended.


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