Brian Krock is a guy who has in very short order shown that he knows what he’s doing. His first album with his large ensemble, Big Heart Machine already showed quite exquisitely that he can arrange many players to communicate a panoply of ideas well. However, with his smaller sextet, Liddle is further able to let these musicians’ voices resound. Krock himself can stand out more as a reedist; Olli Hirvonen’s work on the guitar can stand in the front with more assuredness, becoming more of a fixture than a feature; someone like Matt Mitchell, whose talents are perfect for work this cerebral, has the space and material to shine as he should. With his second album, Brian Krock with his Liddle ensemble are certainly a group worth hearing.
The gears start turning immediately with “(flip)”, putting the arrangement out front. It’s a fun piece of machinery that works so well due to Nathan Ellman-Bell’s lockstep drumming. By second tune “Knuckle Hair”, the precise swirls find more air. It’s middle section is a spare dream of solos, like trying to grab the pixelated stars darting across a screensaver from Windows 98. “Memphis” is a power ballad if you ever heard one, finding great peaks and valleys and all the sights therein, in large park to Hirvonen’s solo but it’s definitely a team effort.
It’s rather nice having a smaller ensemble. Yes, there are fewer horns being as resounding as Krock’s, but Hirvonen gets much more room to stretch out like on “Heart Machine”, riding out a wave that eases back to shore. “Opus 23b” gives Krock that chance to be just as clever as he is inventive. Of course there’s something more there, he laid all the breadcrumbs for a fun listen and synchronicity, but there’s still that room for the something more. By the time Marty Kenney shows up on “Sponduculis” with that something more, you’re all the more ready for it.
In his previous album, Krock showed how he can weave all these interlocking parts together, but with Liddle, he’s has proven that he can fitfully arrange a smaller group and give them all enough space to shine on their own while also finding all the right folks to execute his complex ideas with ease. He may very well have placed himself at the moment as one of the most fascinating of arrangers of his present time in part by leaving each of his players to their respective strengths.
Liddle, the sophomore album from multi-instrumentalist/composer/arranger Brian Liddle is out April 26th on Outside In Music.
Brian Krock- alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Olli Hirvonen- electric guitar
Matt Mitchell- piano, Fender rhodes
Simon Jermyn- 6-string electric bass (track 4), baritone guitar (track 9)
Marty Kenney- upright bass
Nathan Ellman-Bell- drum set
Produced by Brian Krock
Tracks 1-2, 4-6, 8-9 composed by Brian Krock, BMI
Track 3 composed by Olli Hirvonen, TEOSTO & Brian Krock, BMI
Track 7 composed by Anthony Braxton, Synthesis Music, BMI
Recorded by Michael Perez-Cisneros at Big Orange Sheep
Mixed and Mastered by Joseph Branciforte at Greyfade Studio
Album artwork and layout by David Foarde
Photography by Desmond White
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.