Madison saxophonist Tony Barba celebrates the release of his second solo album. Info
Tony Barba plays an indispensable role in most corners of Madison music where someone might need a saxophone or bass clarinet player, from the Afro-Peruvian jazz quartet Golpe Tierra to the boisterous Youngblood Brass Band, on top of the work he's done with artists ranging from Makaya McCraven to Bon Iver. Although he's never been strictly a jazz musician, Barba took a markedly experimental turn about five years ago, pairing saxophone with electronic processing and loops, first in the form of effects pedals and lately in a more software-based setup. For Barba, the electronics are of a piece with the harmonic and textural possibilities of jazz improvisation, not a mere novelty or production flourish. The heavily processed signals meld with the acoustic ones, and the loops allow Barba to build up more dense, layered, and episodic pieces than one might ordinarily get with the sax alone. Barba's 2016 album Winter's Arms sculpted warm tenor sax phrases into five long-form ambient pieces.
He plays here to celebrate the release of his second solo album, Ether. This time around, the sax and electronics sound much more fluidly integrated, and the layers build up in a much more complex way, across a total of three tracks, two of which are about a half-hour long. Winter’s Arms began with an unadorned sax phrase and gradually looped and altered it, but the acoustic and electronic elements are intertwined right from the start on Ether. The opening/title track immediately pairs the sounds of reed and breath with harmony lines and warbly modulation. “Time Will Take Its Toll” begins with a percussive flutter, letting an uncertain atmosphere accrete before giving us a droning swell of notes to latch onto. There's a sense across this record that Barba has grown more and more at home with this approach, combining an improviser's restless curiosity with the glacial patience of an ambient producer. He shares the bill here with percussion duo Filament, who will be performing their take on experimental musician Alvin Lucier's piece "Music On A Long Thin Wire." —Scott Gordon