By Ron Hart | Published August 2018
“What percentage of the age of the universe is a human lifespan?” asks saxophonist Patrick Zimmerli in the liner notes of his 13th leader album, Clockworks.
It’s a deep question for a deep album. And while its answer might be in the cosmos, the time Zimmerli, pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer John Hollenbeck have spent together offers insight into what drives the gears of this remarkable studio recording. That bassist Christopher Tordini—who doesn’t have that sort of history with the other players here—falls so smoothly into the ensemble is a testament to the organic nature of this 11-song suite.
True to its title, Clockworks moves like a well-wound Rolex, an arc of improvised flourishes and written melodies that undulates between movements of linear, metric and harmonic variations, and limber exploratory themes like “Pendulum” and “Wind-Up.” That latter track arguably is the quintessential example of the suite’s chronology-minded concept, especially in the implementation of polyrhythms that make it sound more like a double-duo than a quartet.
Having worked together for more than 25 years, the harmony among Zimmerli, Hollenbeck and Iverson is undeniable and serves as the invincible engine driving the spirit of these performances. In his note, Zimmerli explains that Clockworks is “an attempt to give time the kind of satisfying shape it so often lacks.”
From the sound of this record, Dali himself couldn’t have painted a more appropriate portrait.
Clockworks: A Scattering Of Stars (Distension Variation); Pendulum; Metric Variation; Waltz Of The Polyrhythmic Palindrome; Linear Variation; The Center Of The Clock; Entropic Variation; Boogalooo Of The Polyrhythmic Palindrome; Harmonic Variation; Windup; A Scattering Of Stars (Theme). (53:52)
Personnel: Patrick Zimmerli, tenor saxophone; Ethan Iverson, piano; Christopher Tordini, bass; John Hollenbeck, drums.