**** “Nodwell surfaces as as a formidable modern jazz composer on Nemesis…Notables such as Colorado-based trumpeter Ron Miles, pianist Art Lande, and others execute the artist’s material in superb fashion. With this production, the listener will embark upon a multifaceted expedition, brimming with subtle intricacies and poignant dreamscapes.”
— Glenn Astarita, Allmusic.com
Nemesis takes listeners on a heroic journey of transformation, portraying a shamanic descent into the underworld to retrieve the spiritual fire. It is a dual world where the familiar becomes arresting, and expectations are suspended, fulfilled, and transformed. The pieces, in turn somber and mischievous, intense and joyful, uncover a broad spectrum of qualities and compositional ideas – the results are both innovative and beautiful.
Lyrical themes, passionate improvisations, and evocative harmonies fill the record, while deeper listening reveals subtle layering, an overarching sense of form, and a play on expectations. Nodwell explains: “I wanted to explore the song form, to see how much I could stretch and warp the standard song structure, how much I could put in or take out, and still have the essence be a song. The forms curl and twist, continually presenting the material in a different light. The music plays with expectations, establishing familiar signposts while laying out unfamiliar terrain, drawing the listener into an enigmatic dreamlike soundspace. It deliberately hovers between the familiar worlds of inside and free jazz, never quite committing to either, creating an unsettling psychological tension. I tried to balance, or at least juxtapose, this tension with the lyricism of heartfelt songs.” Rhythmically, there’s a seamless weaving of metric shifts and harmonic shifts, as well as occasional tempo changes, or multiple tempos.
Each song is its own complex soundworld; from the quietly ominous bass and piano of the title track to the swinging drums of Fleet and the achingly gorgeous twinned trumpet and guitar of Aura, the instruments loop, weave and mesh to create rich textural soundscapes. The ensemble executes these challenging compositions with subtlety and grace. The varied timbres are faithfully conveyed in a transparent analogue recording mixed to 2-channel and 5-channel DSD (with surround sound options used judiciously to enhance the music’s moods).
The musicians were handpicked by Nodwell for their particular voices. “This is the ideal band to play this music. Everyone is comfortable playing inside and out, and in terms of blowing over changing metres these are probably the best cats out there. They all access the full palette of timbres and shadings on their instruments, giving this quintet an almost orchestral richness. I love the uncommon combination of trumpet and electric guitar, and wrote these pieces specifically with Ron and Khabu’s sounds in mind. I first heard Ron in about 1993, in a basement space with an audience of about five. He had one of the most beautiful trumpet sounds IÕd ever heard – simultaneously joyous and poignant. While rooted in bop, his ideas sounded fresh and daring, with incredible phrasing. I played with Khabu for a couple years while in Boulder. He’s one of the most boundlessly creative musicians I’ve ever heard. Art has been a major inspiration to me. I moved to Colorado to study with him in 1994, when I was making my first baby steps in composition, so it was awesome working with Art as a cohort. He’s a musical force, with an uncanny knack for adding little gestures that elevate the music to a new level, and an incredible sense of structure. Drew and Tom lay the solid foundation for some wickedly difficult charts and make it sound totally natural. Drew’s unstoppable bounce and Tom’s swirling intensity lay the perfect groundwork for this music.”
Canadian composer-saxophonist Mark Nodwell studied at Naropa University and lives in Vancouver. He entered the jazz scene to critical acclaim with (co)incidents (Songlines, 1999), a sextet featuring Eyvind Kang and François Houle.
“Nodwell is another under-recorded genius…Nemesis is a departure from his debut, (co)incidents, in that he doesn’t play on it; health problems have apparently forced him to give up the saxophone but have not impaired his ability to craft strong tunes, rich in melody and spiritual intensity. The latter is most apparent on ‘Vortex’, which approaches Mahavishnu Orchestra territory thanks to Khabu Doug Young’s fierce and fiercely distorted guitar attack, but Nodwell also finds strength in repose. ‘Pitfall’, for instance, is a languid and entrancing showcase for yet another overlooked musician, pianist Art Lande, who displays his customary impressionistic delicacy on a tune so pretty it’ll make you hold your breath in wonder.” — Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight
“[Nodwell] balances a pair of lengthy pieces, the title track and ‘Aura’ played by the entire quintet, against shorter tracks and duos…His perfect partner for these creations is guitarist Khabu Doug Young, who shows an aptitude for both shredding guitar and rhythmic harmonies. His ability to morph into Nodwell’s conceptions presents this seemingly disparate music as one.” — Mark Corroto, AllAboutJazz.com
“The quintet he chooses to express his vision rises to the challenges, moulds the music and leavens it with high energy and resonant impulses. Nodwell spins tales of varied hues. His imagination unravels the skein in different directions, from minimalism to swing to free expression, and sets up a groundswell that can rise slowly or explode in the first instant. Nodwell gives form a lot of content but there is one tune that rises from a free trajectory, bringing in an unusual twist to the tale of its composer. On ‘Flight of the Pterodactyl,’ Ron Miles squawks on the trumpet, Drew Gress bows lines askew, Khabu Doug Young gets his guitar in to feedback drive. Once the flutter has passed, the tune soars gloriously on a Middle Eastern melody. Art Lande makes the sparks fly, bringing in an infectious joy through his spirited dynamics on the piano before Young returns to rock with hard lines and bent notes…Nemeis is a captivating mosaic of sound and pattern.” — Jerry D’Souza, AllAboutJazz.com
*** “Nodwell’s fiery music combines the ethereal spaciousness of certain ’70s ECM records with the circuitous melodies and scorching rhythmic punctuations of Headhunters’ Thrust…Nemesis’ opening title track was laid out in perfect spooky alignment…Wide spatial depiction is one of SACD’s delights, along with treble ease on the ear, greater dynamics and superior frequency extension. Nemesis offered this in spades….The [Yamaha S2300] delicately portrayed the nuanced piano sound of Nemesis, and when coupled with its explosive soloing sections, revealed Songlines’ singular SACD sound…The intense performance and dynamic sound of Nemesis was rendered complete and full.” — Ken Micallef, Downbeat
“Nodwell’s music is pretty advanced and not that tonal, but it’s not pushy or raucous and seems to invite the listener to dive in and explore its unfamiliar nooks and crannies. It hovers between the familiar jazz world and that of free jazz without committing to either, exploring new tonal relationships with meticulous care and great taste, rather than blasting dissonances. The clean and extremely detailed surround sonics helps greatly in this effort. This is a disc I want to really get into late some night when I’m not under deadline pressures.” — John Henry, Audiophile Audition