Monday, July 19, 2010

The Melodic Darkness of Ryan Blotnick

Posted By on 07.19.10 at 02:35 PM

Ryan Blotnick
  • Ryan Blotnick
On his second album, Everything Forgets (Songlines, 2009), guitarist Ryan Blotnick pushed away from the relative mainstream cool of his solid but unspectacular 2008 debut, Music Needs You. Supported by two very different sounding rhythm sections, he reined in his virtuosity in favor of microscopic detail in a rich variety of miniatures, diligently developing more modest ideas inside tighter strictures with a pensive, moody lyricism. On “Mansell,” backed by bassist Perry Wortman and drummer Joe Smith, he extrapolates on a simple little melody, pulling it apart harmonically like a miner sifting through dirt in search of gold. The piece doesn’t begin and end so much as it shares its thoughts.

Other tracks, recorded with electric bassist Simon Jermyn, drummer Jeff Williams, and reedist Joachim Badenhorst, are more turbulent and sinister; there’s less space and less calm, even though the quartet rarely gets all that loud. Blotnick breaks up the album cleverly with seven short pieces of free improv, which contrast with his elegant written themes in both scale and vibe—and yet even on these totally spontaneous works he brings a dark melodic sense to the controlled chaos.

Blotnick, a native of Maine who now lives in New York, is only 27, and though he’s made great strides with his latest recording, I don’t think he’s quite figured it all out. But he’s got no shortage of tools and ideas at his command; I’m eager to see where he goes next. He's in town to play some of his tunes and improvise with a strong group of Chicago musicians at the Charleston: drummer Charles Rumback, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, tenor saxophonists Will Jones and Josh Sclar, and bassist Jeff Greene.

Here's a track, "Judge's Cave," from Everything Forgets:

photo: Nathaniel Peluga

Today’s playlist:

Ana Moura, Leva-Me Aos Fados (World Village)
Huw Warren & Peter Herbert, Everything We Love and More (Babel)
Orchestre Traditionnel De La Guadeloupe, Album D’Or De La Biguine (Frémeaux & Associés)
Various artists, In the Footsteps of Babur: Musical Encounters From the Lands of the Mughals (Smithsonian Folkways)
Rolf & Joachim Kühn Quintet, Transfiguration (MPS)

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