By Josef Woodard | Published March 2022
For the improvisational project under the fitting moniker Open Question, five sympatico musicians — multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter, saxophonist/FX manipulator Ayumi Ishito, pianist/Wurlitzer player Eric Plaks, acoustic bassist Zach Swanson and drummer Jon Panikkar — gathered in the Brooklyn-based Big Orange Sheep on Nov. 11, 2020, to take stock of what the muse might have in store. The muse was with them.
With the resulting recorded evidence, broken up in two volumes, with the first having just been released, the quintet has conjured up a refreshingly tasteful and internally malleable free outing. It moves organically from identifiable tonality and rhythm to their opposites, with a special ensemble fluidity, nuance and sense of space.
Idiomatic identification becomes one of the variables in the group-think expressive palette. The opening track, for instance, is called simply “Blues” and opens with a shambling rhythmic spirit that could be related to blues, minus the chord changes. Structure starts to morph, and by the end of the 12-minute piece, it has shape-shifted into a rumbling free zone, stripped of tonality or fixed rhythm. The aptly named “Dimly-lit Platform” projects the character of a trans-tonal, boneless ballad, while the closing tune, “Synchronicity,” ratchets up the cathartic, free-blowing intensity.
True to that song title, and the album at large, synchronicity and the importance of collective collusion over individual spotlighting add up to a notable project at the junction of inside, outside and some hard-to-define X factor holding it all together.
Open Question Vol. 1: Blues; Dimly-lit Platform; Confidential BBQ; Synchronicity. (43:51)
Personnel: Daniel Carter, trumpet, flute, clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Ayumi Ishito, tenor saxophone, FX; Eric Plaks, piano, Wurlitzer; Zach Swanson, acoustic bass; Jon Panikkar, drums.
Ordering Info: 577records.com