By Carlo Wolff | Published September 2021
Inspired by the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, tenor saxophonist Sam Pilnick has composed a nine-part suite designed to evoke a trip into space and back. The Adler Suite — some tracks swinging mightily, some modern-classical, one a kind of round — succeeds in its mission. The segments span the lusty “Squawk Box,” an exciting example of Pilnick’s affinity for the lower harmonic depths; “Revolving Twins,” an expressive blend of brass and saxophones that gains in power, verging on anger; “Silver Light,” a ballad showcasing Emily Kuhn’s noir trumpet; and “House Of The Missives (Pismis-24),” a complex rocker highlighting Matthew Smalligan’s explosive percussion and Ben Cruz’s ringing guitar.
References surface in places like the hint of “Star Eyes” in “Star Launch,” a track that displays Max Bessesen’s saxophone virtuosity. But originality rules, climaxing in “Falling Backwards,” which evokes an astronaut’s scary, thrilling return to Earth. Pianist Meghan Stagl’s left hand kicks off that final track, which traverses a sonic palette of saxophones, Euan Edmonds’s flashy trombone and Stagl’s warm-hearted chording. This music isn’t psychedelic, but it is a trip. —Carlo Wolff
The Adler Suite: Squawk Box; Star Launch; Revolving Twins; Silver Light; Constant Companion; House Of The Massive (Pismis-24); A Light Year; Expanding Universe; Falling Backwards. (55:01)
Personnel: Max Bessesen, alto saxophone; Ben Cruz, guitar; Ben Dillinger, bass; Euan Edmonds, trombone; Ted Hogarth, baritone saxophone; Emily Kuhn, trumpet; Sam Pilnick, tenor saxophone; Matthew Smalligan, drums; Meghan Stagl, piano.
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