Dave Chisholm is multi-talented. He’s a deft trumpeter and composer– expressive, expansive, illustrative with an idea of direction and arch. He is also a graphic artist with a good sense of form and an eve better sense of oddness. For an artist of any sort, these are all good qualities to have and it’s an immense asset to be able to express oneself in multiple media, bringing together these passions into a pair of works that fulfill a certain vision. In his graphic novel and the accompanying soundtrack to Instrumental, Dave Chisholm is realizing his talents magnificently.
The seven-song album, one for each chapter of the novel, is a moody affair. Chisholm is putting in some work on the trumpet but it’s his synths that pull together the vibe he’s going for here, adding texture where the trumpet is in the driver’s seat. The rest of his band fill out this sound quite well. Guitarist Noah Berman is featured about as prominently as Chisholm, playing with just as many blue-gray tones, never wailing but always churning. Mike Conrad is a pleasing pianist, able to accent these compositions. The same could be said of Ben Thomas’ skills on the bass. However, it’s Aaron Staebell on drums who stands out most here, taking his moments and relishing in the spotlight.
The book itself about a dedicated trumpet player who happens upon a horn that sounds magnificent but just so happens to kill people is quite the read. Chisholm’s art is direct and dynamic, the plot engrossing, and the subject matter sure to appeal to jazz lovers. Yet it still manages to tell a story that has a wide appeal. There’s magic and religious references and ruminations on obsession that artists are so prone to make.
Dave Chisholm spent years putting this book together, and likely spent about as much time on the accompanying music. It is the culmination, for both these important forms of expression, of the labor of a man who has so much to say and so many means of saying it, and in these various means, he manages to say it all particularly well. To say a musician has range implies an ability to play the quiet and loud, the big and small, the fast and slow, the multitude of genres and tones, perhaps with adaptability with various players. To say a visual artist has range notes fluency in assorted media, an understanding of history while making insightful statements about the present and the future, and perhaps the ability to hold to deadlines. To say an artist of both these sorts has range may be the grander claim, for the ability to make such clear, compelling statements in such different forms is something to marvel. In all aspects of Instrumental, Dave Chisholm proves himself to be that kind of artist with that kind of marvelous range.
Instrumental, the soundtrack to the graphic novel of the same name by trumpeter/graphic artist Dave Chisholm, is out now on Outside-In Records. The graphic novel is out May 30th.
Dave Chisholm – trumpet, voice, synths
Noah Berman – guitar
Aaron Staebell – drums
Ben Thomas – bass
Mike Conrad – piano
Recorded by Rich Wattie and Dave Chisholm
Mixed by Dave Chisholm
Mastered by Stephen Roessner
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.