Three Story Sandbox

Artful Dodgers
(Tall Grass)

Three Story Sandbox reprises the inventive free improvisation heard on its 2016 self-titled debut with the new release Artful Dodgers, an inviting collection of spontaneously recorded tracks featuring ensemble members Jack Mouse (drums and assorted percussion), Janice Borla (wordless alto vocals) and Scott Robinson (tenor saxophone, slide saxophone and more) — with the addition of genre-bending violin virtuoso Mark Feldman, a special guest with a powerful presence. The musical proceedings are propelled by the ongoing interplay of these four seasoned players, who are presented in a variety of duet and trio configurations, as well as a full quartet. All four members of this incarnation of Three Story Sandbox come across as highly intuitive compositional soloists whose instincts lead them through moments of glorious group unity, curious musings and spirited exchanges of individual expression. The stated goal of Artful Dodgers, named after one of Charles Dickens’ slipperiest characters, was to make completely improvised music that embraces an organized interplay of sounds but comes across as if the players were reading actual notes on a page. It succeeds in this sleight-of-hand feat, thanks to the group members’ ability to achieve near-instant cohesion (seemingly out of thin air) and conjure specific moods, times and places that provide meaningful context and give each piece its distinct character. The suite-like reality-check “Tears For Ukraine” serves as a centerpiece for the album, as the musical imagery traverses a war-torn terrain of impending doom, despair, death and destruction in its heart-wrenching search for deeper meaning amid the ongoing hostilities brought upon the sovereign European nation by Russian military aggression. Other notable tracks include the opening tenor-drums duet “Twin Rivers,” the lyrically smeary Feldman-Robinson duet “Slip ’n’ Slide,” the delightfully snappy and slightly bluesy Borla-Mouse duet “Brush Dance,” the full-throttled “Artful Dodgers” with the whole quartet and the dreamy “Kamakura” with its ancient Asian soundscape of Japanese percussion, bamboo flute and haunting vocals. It all adds up to an enlightening, amusing, highly enjoyable listen filled with moments of intense anticipation leading to ever-so-rewarding resolutions. Three Story Sandbox’s brand of free-jazz eschews the unstructured, blind fury that’s frequently associated with the genre, in favor of engaging storytelling, unadulterated backyard fun and an abundance of colorful sound collages so vivid and finely textured they could constitute a supremely hip modern art installation unto themselves.

On Sale Now
May 2024
Stefon Harris
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