Sean Noonan Brewed by Noon
Stories to TellSGL SA1563-2
“Imagine Prime Time joined by Fela Kuti and Bill Frisell, then remixed by Bill Laswell, and you’ll start to get a hint of just what an intoxicatingly soulful blast this is.”
NY drummer Sean Noonan describes his Brewed by Noon project as “tribal rhythms by an Irish griot” and adds “My goal is to adapt folklore in a modern jazz context, merging storytelling and folk music from bardic and griot traditions.” The basic concept isn’t particularly novel in jazz: what happens when “wandering” folk melodies and grooves from different cultures are communally re-created through improvisation. But the ingredients, the brewing methods, and the spirit of the resulting music, are indeed different.
Start with Sean’s background: Irish Bostonian, Berklee College graduate, co-founder of The Hub, a trio whose punk-jazz has gained a particular following in Europe. A car wreck while touring Italy in 2003 nearly cost him his life and broke both legs: several operations over a period of two years, wheelchair-bound for periods of months, had to learn to do everything physical again, but already back playing the drums as soon as he could move his legs even a bit. As he recuperated he began developing a new project that would blend jazz-punk with west African folk music, and got together again with Senegalese bassist Thierno Camara, an old friend in whose Waaw Band he’d performed years before, to write some new tunes. The first Brewed by Noon album was released independently in 2005, a quartet featuring guitarist friends Aram Bajakian and Jon Madof. He expanded the range of possibilities for this second record by seeking out new collaborators and brilliant downtown jazzers Marc Ribot and Mat Maneri, percussionist Jim Pugliese (one of his teachers), then Malian vocalist Abdoulaye Diabaté (a griot or hereditary praise singer whose mother tongue is Bambara. younger brother of griot Kasse Mady Diabaté and member of Peter Apfelbaum & the NY Hieroglyphics), as well as Irish gaelic folk/rock singer Susan McKeown and classical and soul vocalist Dawn Padmore (herself of Liberian parentage). The music was created with the assistance of a commissioning grant from the American Composers Forum.
The stories Sean and his band tell in these 10 pieces are exceptionally diverse. You can pick out elements of blues, rock, soul, jazz and improv in various combinations, adding in Celtic and west African song-forms, lyrics, melodic content and instrumental approaches, but all transformed in the process of development. From the funky metaphoric love song to a “Pineapple,” to moral fables about a lost baby elephant in “Esspi” and the presumptuous lord “Massana Cissé,” to the grinding out-rock/jazz interplay of “Scabies” and the spooky hospital lullaby “Dr. Sleepytime,” to the Irish/Malian duet “Noonbrews,” Stories to Tell kaleidoscopically refracts its participants’ cultures, talents and musical experiences into an ecstatic, intoxicating vision, one constantly supported by the energy and direction of Sean’s drumming. And New York, the symbolic melting pot where it all transpires, is paid homage to in the musical rollercoaster “NY.”
Concludes Sean: “I want to understand and preserve these ancient traditions by re-interpreting them from a modern, multi-cultural perspective, exploring my concept of ‘brewing’ people, original ideas/concepts, and cultures, since I believe it’s my mission. I’ve become very attached to the people I’ve worked with. Sometimes I dream about them and have visualizations of what they will do with my music. This record is a platform presenting many different themes and formulas. I want to dedicate a record to each theme. I want to continue to learn more about my Gaelic roots and brew them with West African improvisation. And I want to explore new dimensions with my electro-acoustic drumset, utilizing electronics in a way that complements and challenges my approach to the drumkit.”
The audiophile recording was creatively mixed to surround; heard in that format, the often complex instrumental and vocal interplay stands out in great detail even as the listener is immersed in the music.
“Noonan approaches postmodern jazz and world music from the angle of self-discovery…He attempts to braid together the Celtic balladry of his ancestors with the various traditions of West African griots, Southern bluesmen and downtown-scene alchemists [and] manages to make his pieces speak coherently, and in a unified voice.” – Nate Chinen, New York Times
****1/2 “Dreamy/frenetic soundscapes, dual-lead guitar heroics, haunting Celto/Afric vocals, avant-jazz weirdness – it could almost be the soundtrack to a lost Wachowski Brothers film….One gets the feeling that Sean Noonan is another in a long line of amped-up Irishmen, a decidedly more wild and crazy guy version of, say, Van Morrison or Dylan Thomas or William Butler Yeats.” — Jan P. Dennis, Audiophile Audition (reviewing Stories to Tell)
“…Jazz vernaculars and birthrights are fused into a bold and beautiful chain of musical events, often enamored with vigor and finesse.” – ejazznews.com
“…a funky feast of music…bursting with talented musicians and interesting sounds…” – All About Jazz New York “Blending ethnic polyrhythms with No Wave noise and robotic Downtown funk, Noonan has tapped into a sub-genre with roots that run deep in the Lower East Side…passionate performances.” – AllAboutJazz.com
“Drummer Noonan’s notion of conflating ‘bardic and griot traditions’ has juice. The Celtic tunes and African grooves retain their singularity, even when surrounded by flashes of fusion.” – The Village Voice
“…clever, tuneful and celebratory – and more often than not it just plain rocks.” – Time Out New York
“…a record that very much pursues Noonan’s vision, complex and twisted as it is, and there can be beauty in the chaos…it’s a record that demands attention from your ears and brain, one that falls outside any definition – which is a good thing.” – All Music Guide
“If you’re in the mood for a far-reaching sonic smorgasbord, here’s your ticket.” – New Music Box
“A mind-bendingly diverse blend of West African song forms, Gaelic folk melodies, urban funk rhythms, blazing electric guitars and raucous Downtown free jazz…Noonan’s eponymous ensemble is as multifaceted as post-modernism gets…a compelling listen.” – AllAboutJazz.com
“…Dawn Padmore’s jazz ballad is a nice change of pace.” B+(*) – Tom Hull on the Web
“A high watermark for contemporary progressive jazz” – MidwestRecord.com