Liner Notes to "Waits and Measures":
What does modern jazz sound like? Though the answer is as complex and varied as the individual artists performing in today’s environment; one thing is for certain; saxophonist Pete Robbins is answering the question in his own way on Waits and Measures.
Robbins continues to expose a stylistic and free approach that was first heard on his auspicious 2002 debut (Centric, Telepathy Records.) The highly enjoyable recording not only showed depth but also a distinct voice that was open to change.
It becomes clear as one listens to the new recording that Robbins has an acute understanding of jazz as an art-form but more importantly is striving to create music that is moving in new directions with his ideas of “Fewer solos, more of a rock feel, more sections per tunes, less "jazzy" harmony,… and letting the band speak through composed sections and not just improvised ones ...” A mindset that is more than likely fueled by his environment and diverse influences.
Since moving to New York in 2002 Robbins has flourished in the city’s creative music scene performing in a variety of venues and styles such as jazz, avant-garde, experimental, and even playing bass guitar in an indie-rock trio called Tober. This collage of influences permeates the new recording on selections like “Candy” and “No One Cares” that juxtapose rock rhythms with free improvisation to create music that appeals to a wider band of listeners while also keeping the creative process intact.
Robbins is proving to be an outstanding composer as well as a skilled instrumentalist. While he can play with speed and stamina, what is equally impressive are his cerebral and engaging compositions, performed by a talented sextet that includes Sam Sadigursky (tenor saxophone); Eliot Krimsky (Nord Electro, Fender Rhodes); Mike Gamble (guitar); Thomas Morgan (bass); and Dan Weiss (drums.)
With the synergy of a group that has gelled into a tight unit, the music was created from the ebb and flow of spontaneous invention as Robbins expounds "Waits and Measures" is a play on the phrase "weights and measures. To me, it has to do with behaving in a measured way and waiting for significant moments. It has to do with being aware of your impulses and being true to them, but acting on them in a calculated, rational way, so that the results are optimal with respect to your goals.”
These significant moments blossom throughout the recording beginning with the jagged pulse of “Inkhead” which mixes multiple tempos and hip ostinato patterns. Robbins’ writing prowess also makes excellent use of various instrument textures. On the title piece “Waits and Measure” the layered sounds include intricate cymbal work, contrasting sax timbres, and the chilled sounds of Krimsky‘s Nord Electro keyboard.
The spacing of each instrument is a thing of beauty on “There There” which begins with a probing and powerful bass intro. The other instruments are gradually folded into the soulful melody and later deliver their own introspective solos. From the alien-like strangeness of “Cankers and Medallions” featuring power rock and a unique drum solo, to the groove based “Rodil” where Robbins solos hot against a repeating phrase; the attention to detailed arranging and free musicianship keeps the music vibrant and the listener anticipating the next move.
Robbins has again impressed me with his abilities as a musician, a serious composer, and a vision to create music that is progressive, yet always engages the people. Regardless of the definitions, this is what modern jazz should be about.
Mark F. Turner (February 2006)
- A regular contributor to allaboutjazz.com and other music publications.
PETE ROBBINS BIO:
pete robbins moved to new york in september, 2002, and immediately became “a welcome presence on the creative music scene.” he leads his group at such venues as the 55 bar, cornelia street café, detour, the bowery poetry club, the tea lounge, and others; he also plays regularly in philadelphia, washington dc, and boston, tours the united states, and visits europe with his group, featuring appearances at denmark’s copenhagen jazz festival. in addition to the group heard on waits & measures (playscape recordings, june 2006), robbins also dabbles in more avant-garde projects with such musicians as mark dresser, randy peterson, daniel levin, and mary halvorson. after stints in boston and copenhagen, robbins now resides in brooklyn.
in addition to his performing and recording pursuits, robbins also curated a jazz series at the cornelia street café on behalf of the organization “music for america” from february through november of 2004. m.f.a. is a partisan non-profit, promoting political and social awareness through live music. groups featuring such jazz legends as dave douglas, uri caine, ravi coltrane, bill mchenry, rodney green, john o’gallagher, and others shared the bill with robbins’ own group at each concert. in september 2004, the village voice recognized robbins’ musical, promotional, and political efforts by naming him their featured jazz pick for the fall season.
to find out more: peterobbins.com, www.myspace.com/peterobbins
to email pete: firstname.lastname@example.org