Twin Talk – Twin Talk – ears&eyes

With Twin Talk, communication is key.

Twin Talk – Twin Talk [TrackList follows] – ears&eyes ee: 16-043, 53:45 [4/29/16] ****:

(Andrew Green – drums; Katie Ernst – bass, voice; Dustin Laurenzi – tenor saxophone)

A little medical jargon is necessary to appreciate the moniker of this Chicago trio. Cryptophasia (or twin talk) is a language phenomenon developed by identical or fraternal twins and is based on elements only the two children can understand, often a mix of oral and non-spoken communication. The group, Twin Talk, puts that belief in communication to the forefront on the threesome’s eponymous sophomore album, which concentrates on the democratic dialogue of bassist Katie Ernst (who adds vocals to three tunes), drummer Andrew Green and tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi. There’s no designated leader on the 53-minute record. The members’ creativity is threefold throughout the 11 cuts. Laurenzi penned the majority of the originals, while Ernst contributed three.

Twin Talk began as Laurenzi/ Ernst/Green, and under that appellation issued their 2013 debut, Sightline. Last year the trio revised their name. Ernst states (tongue in cheek), “We didn’t want to be a jazz law-firm anymore.” With a new name also came a broader range in their material and performance. Their first release showed a post-bop style with a nod to West Coast cool jazz. This time, the three musicians were more stimulated by Chicago’s always absorbing music scene. Laurenzi explains, “Chicago’s legacy of creative improvisation has had a huge impact on how we approach music.” He further says, “It challenges us to be reckless and take risks every time we play.”

Indeed, there is a sense of progressive adventure on tunes such as Ernest’s slowly evolving “Martha,” which has a meditative melody that is initiated via a sublime bass introduction. “Martha” zeroes in on nuance. The fluctuations are subtle; the way the supple percussion, softly-inclined sax and bass notes coalesce speaks volumes about the trio’s proficient rapport. Another character-based piece is the intricate “Teddy.” Sax, drums and bass propel this shifting number without seemingly making the music too difficult to follow the changes. “Teddy” is tricky but doesn’t test the patience of listeners. “Shorty” also has unconventional moments, particularly Green’s multi-tiered rhythmic scope. His groove is solid but also off center, thus helping establish a focused instability. Groove is even more paramount on personality-inspired “J.J,” where a light Latin undercurrent nicely balances with Laurenzi’s fluid sax lines. The harmonic exchanges between the three instruments reveal how much the threesome rehearses and workshops their compositions before going on stage or into a studio. Mild tension traverses “Rupert,” where Laurenzi offers precise single notes, while Green actively heightens his percussive features. Sometimes during “Rupert” it feels like the song may pull apart, but it’s held together with surety.

Another Twin Talk component is vocals. Ernst uses voice on three pieces. The brief, hand-clapping “Hush Hush” includes lyrics about being discreet in love and the importance of non-verbal interaction in romantic relationships. During the calmly cascading “Living Room,” Ernst’s voice enters almost two minutes after the start. Here, too, she ruminates on how two people may or may not become a couple. “It’s long overdue, but it seems so soon,” she sings, “for stars to align, in this living room.” On the lengthy, nearly nine-minute “One Foot in Front of the Other,” Ernst’s wordless vocalizations blend with her bass, and then are echoed by Laurenzi’s similarly-pitched sax notes. The tune’s dimly-lit demeanor—there is an impression of half-shadows floating throughout the arrangement—complements Ernst’s oral sounds, her low bass notes, Green’s brushed percussion, and Laurenzi’s steadily intensifying sax. The perception of poised pressure— apprehension ebbing, lifting, ebbing again—also permeates the concluding cut, “Like Bells.” The sax, bass and drums have a deliberate determination, not necessarily drawn-out but definitely lingering to a build-up of uneasiness or foreboding, or if not that, at least a presentiment of restlessness; which is apt, given that Twin Talk is a group which emphasizes an edgy musical spirit.

TrackList: Colorwheel; J.J.; Martha; Teddy; Hush, Hush; Shorty; One Foot in Front of the Other; Rupert; Eleven; Living Room; Like Bells.

—Doug Simpson

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