Suitable Benchmarks of Reform

Collin Sherman

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"Suitable Benchmarks of Reform", my thirteenth release, sticks to the same process I have used on past releases, where I play all of the instruments myself and overlay the parts. This album is essentially in two sections; the first being a collection of three independent tunes, and the second being a four-part suite.

The opening tune, “Phalanx Strictures”, has a rolling, propulsive 15/4 rhythm and a repetitive melody that makes use of the tendency for the odd meter to feel as if each measure is falling over the top of the next. It’s also the most instrumentally dense piece on the record. Although built around a repeating sequenced bassline, the harmony instruments and horns liberally apply accidentals, providing a sense of free exploration even with the bass continually returning to the tonic.

“Rival Machinations” is completely improvised, with no stated melody or pre-planned elements other than the instrumentation.

“Worthless Objects and Photographs Thereof” slows things down quite a bit and employs a memorable clarinet melody. The Bb soprano clarinet and bass clarinet are the only horns used on this piece, giving it an earthy vibe.

The rest of the album is comprised of the four-part “Rumination Suite” in C minor, which is intended to represent an arc of burgeoning self-awareness and accompanying psychological and spiritual recovery. Each movement in the suite is built around the soprano saxophone and bass tongue drum, providing a steady, metronomic foundation for the tunes.

The first movement, “Meditation on Resentment”, begins the suite with the slow (60 bpm) tongue drum establishing the pace and harmonic framework. Vibraphone provides color and expands the harmonic portrait before the saxophone enters. Eventually strings join the mix, and as the harmonies get more dissonant, the saxophone responds with increasing activity, eventually becoming frenetic and restless, expressing discontentedness.

The next movement, “Faults and Missteps”, explores the mindset one naturally has after nurturing one’s resentments. A repeating, bluesy electric guitar riff sets the tone for the piece along with the tongue drum, insistent and throbbing.

“Things Turn Around” begins with near silence as the tongue drum occasionally provides a lone “C” note. Gradually, various other percussion instruments enter the fold, as well as an oboe, before the saxophone begins its exploration. As the parts flesh out and become busier the piece builds to a dense finale. The slightly quicker tempo and busyness of the piece provide a sense of moving forward; while not exactly providing happiness or resolution, there is the sense that one can move beyond the mistakes that nurturing one’s resentments inevitably yields.

The suite ends with “Foundations of Serenity”. As the most harmonically consonant movement in the piece it establishes a sense of calm. It is meant to reflect a mindset where, although not everything is perfect, there is enough to build a solid path forward.

I hope you enjoy this music and can relate, no matter where along your path you have found it.

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