Tonight, Wynwood Yard will throw a party that honors a little bit of jazz, a little bit of Vonnegut, and years worth of passion and hard work rolled up into a freshly-minted compact disc. The Zach Larmer Electric Band will be out performing works from their debut album, self-released and available today. We had the great pleasure of talking to composer/bandleader/local music impresario Zach Larmer about the development and recording of the album, with a sneak peak of what to expect from tonight’s show.
A listen through provides an illuminating study of what a live performance from these players might offer. The pieces themselves are complicated and strikingly intellectual, but overly-academic elements de rigueur in much of fusion and post-modern jazz are absent here. The album doesn’t fall victim to the emotional stiffness one grows accustomed to in other examples of self-proclaimed “math-music.” The performances are interactive and organic, and the tunes always maintain a foot-tapping groove throughout.
Part of this can be attributed to the nature of the compositions. Larmer sometimes writes with particular players in mind, but always structures his arrangements with space for collective harmonic spontaneity and to ensure each individual player has room to flex their musical prowess. Even more powerful, the album derives its authenticity from the apt decision to record the pieces as a live in-studio performance, with strict limitations on listening back in session. Over two days, Larmer et al performed straight through the pieces for a small audience at 10K Islands Studio in Little Haiti. Larmer allowed absolutely no overdubbing or polishing – the end result would be a complete capture of live performance and collaboration.
The “Math Music” element shouldn’t intimidate a casual listener; Larmer’s fascination with ‘odd’ time signatures derives from an enduring interest in Classical Indian music. He studies the ragas and holds fast to the belief that ‘odd’ meters don’t preclude a listener from a natural and fluid relationship with what they’re hearing. “There are no amount of beats that can’t be broken down into units of 2 or 3,” he notes. This perspective demonstrates wisdom beyond his experience in regard to the constant battle between traditionalists and would-be ground breakers. To Larmer, tradition is a wealth of cumulative human experience to draw from as he pushes onward into the future. He aspires to create music that challenges boundaries, but still demands it has an intrinsically emotional and relate-able origin. He has little patience for taking sides. “I’m not a purist, in any way… I [want to] understand a tradition, deeply, and use it to my benefit. But I do not want to rely upon the tradition to inform my music. I just want to see people doing what makes them tick. If that has something to do with tradition, awesome.”
The title, “Inner Circle” stems from a lifelong study of Vonnegut. Years ago he stumbled across an address by Vonnegut that asserted humans evolved to live in close-knit family clans, a social structure in decline in the modern age. In the absence of that, humans must create synthetic family units wherever they land in life to fulfill that biological need. In Larmer’s case, the space and security to develop and eventually introduce his music to the world came from the encouragement of a circle of close musician friends. These relationships provided the safety net to explore then-untapped and unrefined potential. But that jumping point served as the catalyst for the years of growth to follow. The players have since changed around a bit, and Larmer’s original music has evolved from introducing sketches to friends in private jam sessions to a polished major debut album. Now he shakes his head in disbelief and humility at how that initial inner circle has grown: two of his players have been major musical influences in his career. John Daversa and Brian Lynch are both legends in their own right, and both have been effusive in their encouragement of his work, while performing regularly with the Electric Band. UM Frost School of Music Jazz Chair John Daversa, on trumpet and EVI, boasts one of the most diverse performance portfolios in South Florida, and Grammy-award winning trumpeter Brian Lynch has performed alongside Eddy Palmieri and in the ranks of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Other players include pianist Tal Cohen, drummers Dave Chiverton and Rodolfo Zuniga, bassists Juan Pablo Diaz and Jermaine Walden, and occasional guest Aldo Salvent on sax.
The Zach Larmer Electric Band will be performing the album Inner Circle in its entirety, tonight at 8 pm at Wynwood Yard. All of the energy poured into the recording promises to bust out in a live setting and have audiences members dancing.
More information about the album and its authors can be found at http://www.zachlarmer.com, and an RSVP for tonight’s party has been set up on Event Brite. Don’t miss this FREE show – you’ll be able to say you saw them when.