Pianist/Composer Angelica Sanchez explores the vibrant hues of the nocturnal world on the debut album by her all-star Nonet
Nighttime Creatures, due out October 27, 2023 via Pyroclastic Records, Angelica Sanchez‘s NONET, features Michaël Attias, Ben Goldberg, John Hébert, Thomas Heberer, Sam Ospovat, Chris Speed, Omar Tamez and Kenny Warren
“One of the most persistently overlooked and under-recorded pianists of her generation, Angelica Sanchez… nonchalantly displays her versatility [on] fleet post-bop, fully improvised excursions, or… brooding introspection.” – Peter Margasak, The Quietus
” Angelica Sanchez is a pianist of great depth and imagination.” – Richard J. Salvucci, All About Jazz
After nearly three decades in the urban wilds of New York City, pianist/composer Angelica Sanchez has spent a good part of the last year living in a secluded cabin while teaching upstate. After the sun goes down, she discovered, the woods reveal a whole other world. “The woods transform at night, when the only light comes from a very thin crescent moon,” Sanchez describes. “You can’t see your hand in front of your face, but the coyotes and other animals make more noise in the dark. I realized that it was only my ears that were activated in those moments. I became fascinated by what I couldn’t see.”
That experience provided the inspiration for Nighttime Creatures, the pianist’s most expansive and ambitious project to date, the album explores the brilliantly nuanced hues of the nocturnal environment with eleven new compositions and arrangements for a nonet comprising several of the leading lights of the creative music scene: Sanchez on piano, saxophonists Michaël Attias and Chris Speed, Ben Goldberg on contra alto clarinet, Thomas Heberer on quarter-tone trumpet, cornetist Kenny Warren, bassist John Hébert, drummer Sam Ospovat and guitarist Omar Tamez.
The nonet was born of Sanchez’s love of big band music, a passion that spans the spectrum from Duke Ellington to Carla Bley to Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams. While scaled down, the ensemble on Nighttime Creatures provides a wide range of dynamic and coloristic possibilities while retaining the individual voices and fluid spontaneity more possible with a small group.
“There’s less safety in numbers,” Sanchez says, sounding inspired rather than daunted by the risk. “The individual personalities were really important to me, so I tried to create space for that. There’s a lot of freedom within the music, and the musicians can choose how they want to exercise that freedom.”
The ability to navigate those choices has been honed over six years of writing, editing, rehearsing and performing. An inventive composer and improviser acclaimed by The New York Times for “[seeking] out the lyrical heartbeat within any avant-garde storm,” Sanchez has crafted memorable encounters with such singular voices as Wadada Leo Smith, Tyshawn Sorey, Rob Mazurek, Marilyn Crispell, Billy Hart, William Parker, Paul Motian, Nicole Mitchell, Jamaaladeen Tacuma and countless others. She brings to her nonet a clear vision whose spectrum, like those pitch-black walks in the woods, encompasses what she can’t see.
“I know what I want, and as time goes on I get closer to the sound in my head,” she explains. “But what I want is something that’s alive, that will change and evolve like a living thing. So my goal has been to figure out how to shape and sculpt my ideas around the elements that I can’t control.”
The stalking, darting motion of the title track captures the stealth movement of shadow-dwelling creatures, while “Cloud House” floats with a wispy evanescence. “Land Here” and “Ringleader” both coalesce out of exploratory improvisations where “Run” exults in tumultuous velocity. Sanchez pays homage to one of her chief influences with two pieces: “C.B. the Time Traveler” recognizes Carla Bley’s lifelong prescience while nodding to the concept of “chronotransduction” from her masterpiece Escalator Over the Hill, which is also obliquely referenced by “Wrong Door for Rocket Fuel.”
With “Lady of the Lavender Mist” Sanchez luxuriates in the elegant mystery of Duke Ellington’s exotic harmonies, while she expands Chilean composer Armando Carvajal’s “Tristeza” from a piano study book for children into a stark, tense peregrination. Perhaps the most integral influence on the album is the most personal; “Astral Light of Alarid” is named for the composer’s late father, Fulgencio Alarid Sanchez, to whom she dedicated the album. “I wouldn’t be a musician without my father’s overwhelmingly warm support – and his record collection,” Sanchez says. “He lit the path for me.”
*** BIO ***
photo by Michael Dyer
Pianist-composer-educator Angelica Sanchez moved to New York from Arizona in 1994. She has since collaborated with such notable artists as Wadada Leo Smith, Paul Motian, Richard Davis, Jamaladeen Tacuma, Nicole Mitchell, Rob Mazurek, Tim Berne, Mario Pavone and Ben Monder, among others. Sanchez’s debut solo album A Little House was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition and her recording Wires & Moss featuring her Quintet was chosen as one of the best releases of 2012 in the New York City Jazz Record. Her most recent recording, Sparkle Beings, was chosen by The New York Times as one of the top ten Jazz recordings of 2022. Sanchez is currently on faculty at Bard College.
Pianist-composer Kris Davis founded Pyroclastic Records in 2016. By supporting artists in the dissemination of their work, Pyroclastic empowers emerging and established artists to continue challenging conventional genre-labeling within their fields. Pyroclastic also seeks to galvanize and grow a creative community, providing opportunities, supporting diversity and expanding the audience for noncommercial art. Its albums often feature artwork by prominent visual artists—Julian Charriére, Dike Blair, Mimi Chakarova, Jim Campbell and Raymond Pettibon among recent examples.
# # #
Angelica Sanchez – Nighttime Creatures
Pyroclastic Records – PR 30 – Recorded August 21-22, 2021
Release date October 27, 2023