of Catalonia, Vol. 1: Suite for Dalí
Annelise Zamula - saxes, flute
Jim Peterson - saxes,flute
Niels Myrner - drums
Bill Noertker - double bass
with special guest
Hugh Schick - trumpet
HEAR SOUNDCLIP NOW
1) Galatea of the Spheres
2) Portrait of My Dead Brother
3) the Hats
4) Exploding Head in the Style of Raphael
5) Telephone Grilled Sardines at the End of September
6) the Chemist of Figueras Looks for Nothing at All
7) Family of Marsupial Centaurs
Inspired by the paintings of Salvador Dalí and bassist Bill
Noertker’s journeys in Catalonia, Suite
for Dalí takes you to the place where jazz melts into
surrealism. What Dalí did for painting, this CD does for jazz.
Deep swing morphs into circus melodies. Beauty fades into cacophony. At
times raucous, at times pensive, always soulful, this CD takes you on
an aural pilgrimage to Catalonia, birthplace of many innovative artists.
In the last decade, Bill Noertker has composed over 150 original pieces
of music for jazz ensemble. His compositions point to the continuity
between the jazz tradition and the avant-garde. His use of group
improvisation and his attention to the individual voices of each of his
bandmates call forth the human element so sorely missing from much of
J A Z Z
W O R D.COM R E V I E W S
review by Ken Waxman
Arriving out of left field
-- well, San Francisco at least -- this CD offers up West Coast jazz of
unexpected verve and originality from a hitherto uncelebrated composer.
Composer and acoustic bass player here is Bill Noertker, 43, who
usually plays with the Lords of Outland and in other groups with saxist
Rent Romus. Someone who studied jazz history and theory with trumpeter
Bobby Bradford and composing with Albert Ryz-Ryzky, the bassist also
interacts musically with painters, writes soundtracks and pieces for
dance and helps organize concerts in the Bay area.
Partisan of program music -- he’s also involved in writing a jazz
ballet inspired by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies --
Noertker’s SKETCHES OF CATALONIA is a tribute to Salvador Dali
(1904-1989), the Catalan painter whose work included dadaist, religious
and mystic symbolism. Unwisely packaged with a cover that resembles the
Miles Davis-Gil Evans collaboration, SKETCHES OF SPAIN, this CD is
anything but a Young Lions take on the Davis-Evans masterwork.
SPAIN’s authority comes from Evans’ orchestrations and
reinterpretations of an already existing concerto plus Davis’ soloing.
SKETCHES, features seven original Noertker compositions with solo work
split among the five capable members of his combo. Illustrative rather
than interpretative, the tunes meander in and out of time, taking their
shape from the initial thought processes rather than much use of
extended techniques or compositional motifs.
Featuring two saxophonist-flautists, a trumpeter plus bass and drums,
Moxie isn’t Evans’ brass-heavy 23-piece SPAIN band either. In
execution, in fact, the work has much in common with post-bop/post-cool
discourses. It’s sort of what you would expect to hear from an updated
Shelly Manne and his Men or Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet. You could
call it modern mainstream, if the neo-cons hadn’t desecrated that term
with their rigid, backwards-looking musicality.
Perhaps it’s the freer Bay-area atmosphere in this live recording, but
most of the tunes are jaunty and mannerly, true to Noertker’s
conception without creating fake commotion or crowd pandering lines.
Dissonant touches seem to be at a minimum as well, except for the
occasional tart overblowing or heartfelt slur from either Annelise
Zamula, a former member of the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet,
or Jim Peterson. On tap for “Portrait of My Dead Brother” is ethereal
double flute counterpoint from Peterson and Zamula. While wiggling
unison reed lines surmounted by tenor saxophone honks are featured on
“The Chemist of Figueras Looks for Nothing at All”, more often the two
are involved in riffing or andante pecking.
Trumpeter Hugh Schick makes his presence felt with a chromatic solo
over pedal point bass lines on “Telephone Grilled Sardines at the End
of September”. Meanwhile polyharmonic horn passages and a tango rhythm
from bass and drums presage impending war conflict much more clearly
than another track, which Noertker insists, features “trance-inducing
In other spots Schick’s forte is light toned triplets, up-to-date, but
not further out than Joe Gordon would have played with Manne or how
Brownie played on his own with Roach. A steady timekeeper who favors
press rolls, backbeats, hi-hat turnarounds and double flams, drummer
Niels Myrner keeps things moving. Even Noertker only rarely varies his
straightahead bass solos with rippling pizzicato effects and
double-stopping slurred fingering.
“Family of Marsupial Centaurs”, is a foot tapper with waltz time
harmonies and nasal, polyphonic reed tones. The final tune, with its
rollicking, smeared textures and strummed then descending bass line,
suggests Kurt Weill’s cabaret music, an irony when you recall Weill’s
flight from Nazism, compared to Dali’s rapprochement with Generalissimo
Politics aside, Noertker’s SKETCHES OF CATALONIA is a fine disc that
demands an encore. Considering it’s subtitled Vol. 1, that shouldn’t be
too long in the offing.
from the e-zine
review by Rotcod Zzaj
As with any CD from "Edgetone Records", this ain't what you (might)
think it is. I mean, th' title makes it sound kinda' "regular",
but after the first 24 bars, you'll realize you're along on a ride
through helter-skelter like you ain't never been on! Bill
Noertker's bass drives th' horns from Dixieland on "around th' world in
80 minutes" (or somethin' like that), diggin' it all th' way!
Supreme jazz sounds, heavy on th' horns, but with rhythms that come
from nearly ev'ry region of th' globe. These are much more than
random sketches, though, fully fleshed-out abstract paintings, that
Dalí would have been proud of (if he dug jazz, that is).
Little snatches of crowd noise make you realize that both the players
& the audience were havin' FUN with this, journeying together, if
you will. Th' real beauty, though, is that while the music
embraces the "out", there's enough of the "in" to make it a very
accessible listen - so, it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz
listeners of all persuasions.
from the e-zine
Aiding & Abetting
review by Jon Worley
Bill Noertker plays the bass, but he writes songs for the ensemble. So
while there are a few kick ass bass solos, the important stuff here
lies in the whole. That sort of old-school approach is a bit unusual
coming from Edgetone (whose releases tend to be a bit more off-track),
though the quality and intensity certainly fits the label's profile.
I don't know enough about jazz to be able to pin a distinct reference
on Noertker and company, but this does remind me of the sorta thing
Coltrane was doing at Atlantic back in the late 50s—traditional fare
with a few added brighteners. Certainly, the two-sax attack (Annelise
Zamula and Jim Peterson play both flute and sax, and they often play
the same instrument in a given song) doesn't hurt in making that
connection in my ears. Then there's the title and cover, which mimic
"Sketches of Spain," the classic Miles Davis album. This is a quartet,
not a "big" band—as on that record—but I suppose you could make an
argument for a similarity in feel. Me, I just think it's a sly joke.
The production sound, too, is somewhat dated. Well, not exactly. But
these tracks do sound like old recordings. The tone is very warm, which
is probably an effect of the two-track live recording. Whatever the
reason, the feel is very inviting.
Each piece is named after (and inspired by) a Salvador Dalí
painting. Again, these songs aren't particularly surreal, but the
complexity of the writing is more than enough to give a good sense of
the visual originals. Quite well done.
the KZSU music database
review by Ben Bostwick
Good modern bop from a local group, their sound reminds me a lot of
something you might hear on CIMP. There's some great solos here,
epecially Zamula and Peterson on sax, as well as some interesting group
improvisation. The liner notes explain the connection between the songs
and the Dalí paintings they're named for, though I think a true
surrealist band would have a tuba. There's some excellent stuff here
Good chamber jazz with a slant; what else would suit this homage to
the great Catalan surrealist by bassist Bill Noertker's ensemble?
Musically, the style recalls the whimsical side of the ensembles of
Steve Lacy or Charles Mingus, especially on the more raucous
numbers. Very nice sax doubling from both Annelise Zamula and Jim
Peterson, and Hugh Schick guesting on trumpet. On "the Hats," the
leader arcos a cleverly near-pop figure. Niels Myrner's drumming
is deliberately unsubtle, a lot of fun. The dragged and martial
"Telephone Grilled Sardines at the End of September" is clever and
I don't detect anything specifically programmatic, although the works
are named after Dalí paintings, understandably not reproduced
here (the cost would be prohibitive). The liner notes are
informative about the composer's intent and each tune's relation to the
paintings. The disc grows stronger upon each listen, and
withstands close listening. Moxie, indeed, as is the parody of
the cover of Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain.
The next two volumes will be tributes to the other world-reknowned
Catalans, Joan Miró (when I was a kid, I thought there was this
woman named Joan My-row who made cutesy paintings, all the rage in the
'60s... not a ground-breaking artist from Catalunya) and Antoni
Gaudí. All three artists have had a profound influence on
me; a visit to Barcelona to visit Gaudí's Sagrada Familia
cathedral and his melted fairyland park was, for me, an equivalent to
visiting China's Great Wall; in itself reason enough to make a
pilgrimage. I can't wait to hear how Noertker will distill and
translate these works into music. This two-track concert DAT
recording has a reasonable amount of color. Another winner for
this small California label.