Transparent Horizons (2004)
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About the artist: Two of the highlights of Stich's musical education took place at Toronto's York University.  First was his study of South Indian Classical music with Trichy Sankaran, second was his study of 20th Century Classical music with James Tenney, particularly Arnold Schoenberg's piano piece 'Opus 11'.  Another major inspiration for Stich was maverick filmmaker Robert Bresson, specifically his rejection of commercialism.  Stich puts a high premium on the unconventional.

About the music: Stich Wynston's Modern Surfaces transfers thought, through music, directly to the listener without style identifications.  Modern Surfaces conveys an unusual and subtle form of excitement which draws the listener in.  The group's mandate involves the exploration of abstract expression.  Modern Surfaces utilizes several parameters of music which are absent from most creative improvising music groups.  This gives Modern Surfaces a richness of expression, nurturing the musical palate of both the musicians and the listener alike.  Rhythm, melody, harmony and texture are all present in the music of Modern Surfaces.  For the past four decades, Stich, Mike, Geoff and Jim have been playing together in many different musical contexts.  The wide-ranging experience of these four musicians makes them well equipped for the challenges that Modern Surfaces presents.

Produced by Barry Romberg
Executive Producer - Peter Schmidlin (TCB Music)
Recorded at - Lydian Sound, Richmond Hill, Canada
Recorded / Mixed by - John Baily, Sept 9, 2003
Mastered by - Charlie Gray, Saluki Music, Toronto, Canada, Aug 14, 2004
Cover painting and poetry by - Andy Berman
Graphic artwork by - digisign gigi schmid-huetiger, ch-6006, lucerne
P and C 2005 by
TCB Music SA, Grand Rue 92/5e
CH-1820 Montreux, Switzerland
Phone    +41+21 981 15 45
Fax:       +41+21 981 15 46

TCB Product Information:
Stich Wynston’s “Modern Surfaces”
“Transparent Horizons”
TCB (yellow) 01172
(UPC 725095011723 )
Review of "Transparent Horizons"
by Robert Calder
Dec 2005
Click here to see the original copy at All About Jazz Website
Review of "Transparent Horizons"
by Paul Olsen
June 2005
Click here to see the original copy at All About Jazz Website

Review of "Transparent Horizons"
by Ken Egbert
Sept 2005


The Musicians
The men behind the music.
Stich Wynston
Stich Wynston, drummer/composer is one of the most creative musicians in Canada.  Stich has honed his skills by working with such diverse artists as: Julius Hemphill, Holly Cole, Daniel Janke, Tom Walsh, Hemispheres, Vektor, Lorne Lofsky, Phil Dwyer, Jon Ballantyne, and alternative-pop artist Jane Sibbery.  Stich is also one of the founding members of the Shuffle Demons.  He has been touring internationally with The Shuffle Demons for over three decades performing in clubs, concert halls and on festival stages worldwide.
Geoff Young
Canadian guitarist/composer/arranger/educator Geoff Young has improvised at festivals and clubs on three continents. Out of 30 years experience gained as a freelance guitarist Geoff has developed a unique approach and voice on the instrument. This concept is embodied in the debut CD from the Geoff Young trio : [in between] romhog 108 which was rated four stars by jazz critic Mark Miller in Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail.

Remarkable for his ability to play in a multitude of musical styles, Geoff has performed and recorded with a diverse array of artists and ensembles including Marilyn Crispell, Kenny Wheeler, Paul Bley, Keith Tippet, Nick Marchione, Donny McCaslin, Maryem Tollar and many more. Geoff’s arrangements and compositions for the band Random Access Large Ensemble were nominated for the 2009 Juno Awards in the contemporary jazz album of the year category.

Mike Murley
An engaging, lyrical saxophonist, Mike Murley is one of Canada’s most celebrated and well-respected jazz artists. Currently active as a leader in various formations from duo to septet, Murley also maintains a busy schedule as both a sideman and an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto Jazz Program.  He has played on fourteen Juno Award-winning recordings since 1990, seven as a leader or co-leader, seven as a sideman.  His most recent Junos include The North (2018), Metalwood’s Twenty (2017) and his trio’s Test of Time (2013).

Since moving to Toronto from his native Nova Scotia in 1981 Murley has enjoyed a career that has spanned a wide stylistic spectrum.   Recordings with legendary Canadian artists such as Ed Bickert, Guido Basso, and Rob McConnell showcase the saxophonist’s talents in the mainstream standard repertoire.  On the more contemporary side, Murley has collaborated frequently with the younger generation of improviser/composers including pianist David Braid and guitarist David Occhipinti.  He is also well known for his work with the three-time Juno Award winning electric jazz group Metalwood.  In addition he has recorded and performed with numerous other Canadian and international artists including John Abercrombie, David Liebman, Paul Bley, John Schofield and Kenny Wheeler. for more on Mike!

Jim Vivian
Jim Vivian moved to Toronto from St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1979 to pursue classical studies on the double bass at the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory with Thomas Monohan who was the principal bassist with the Toronto Symphony.  He spent several summers at the Banff Centre studying with Mr. Monohan (1978) and Stuart Knussen (1979) (principal bassist with the London Symphony for 18 years) and also the summers of 1980 and ‘81 with the National Youth Orchestra studying with Thorveld Fredin (principal bassist with the Royal Stockholm Opera).  It was a masterclass at the Banff Centre with Dave Holland in 1982, however, that was to bring Jim’s earlier interests in Jazz back into focus.

Jim’s first steady gig was with the well known Jazz/R & B/Rap group, the Shuffle Demons, with whom he played from 1984 to 1989.  Also during this period, he developed associations with a group of musicians who were starting a co-op Jazz record label called Unity Records.  This group of people included Brian Dickinson, Mike Murley, Jeff Johnston, Barry Romberg, Barry Elmes, Roy Patterson and Bernie Senensky, all of whom recorded for Unity using Jim as a sideman in their bands.  A number of these records were nominated for Juno Awards and two of them, Mike Murley’s “Two Sides” and Brian Dickinson’s “In Transition”, won for Best Jazz Album.  After leaving the “Demons” in 1989, Jim continued playing and touring with the Toronto musicians mentioned above and continues to work with  them to the present.  In 1991 he was awarded an Art’s “B” Grant from the Canada Council to study in New York with Dave Holland and Marc Johnson.

Throughout the 1990s Jim remained busy on the Toronto scene, across the country and abroad.  In 1993 he joined Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass.  Over the next 5 years he appeared across North America and in Europe and made 6 records with them including one featuring Mel torme.  In the late 1990s he became involved with the Maritime Jazz Orchestra, which is a big band based in Halifax, run by Greg Carter (Music Department Head at St. Francis Xavier University).  It is devoted mostly to playing and recording the music of Kenny Wheeler and has released three records two of which feature JohnTaylor, Kenny Wheeler and Norma Winstone.  Jim appears regularly in clubs with great Toronto players like Mike Murley, Don Thompson, Ted Warren and Brian Dickinson.  He has also accompanied visiting musicians such as John Abercrombie, Jery Bergonzi, John Handy, Sonny Greenwich, Sheila Jordan, Ira Sullivan, Norma Winstone and Kenny Wheeler.

To date, Jim appears on over 70 records and CDs and has recorded with such internationally renowned artists as John Abercrombie, Jerry Bergonzi, Mick Goodrick, Sonny Greenwich, Tim Hagens, Joe Labarbara, David Liebman, Bob Moses, Adam Nussbaum, John Taylor, Don Thompson, Kenny Wheeler and Norma Winstone as well as Canadian artists such as Stefan Bauer, Brian Dickinson, Jeff Johnston, Oliver Jones, Rob McConnell and Roy Patterson.  He has been on faculty at both Humber College and the Banff Centre and presently teaches at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music Jazz Program.

All track info.
Tune Name Track No.      Time Composer
Outward Bound Track 01        6:47 Stich Wynston
I Think This Party's Over Track 02        6:41 Geoff Young
Existential Departures  Track 03       11:05 Geoff Young
Surf Aces Track 04        4:02 Geoff Young
Spiral Nebula Track 05        3:22 Stich Wynston
Evanescence Track 06        7:18 Geoff Young
Caboose Track 07        6:51 Stich Wynston
Automatic Entry Track 08        9:30 Geoff Young
Intergalactic Spheres Track 09        6:25 Stich Wynston
New One  Track 10        6:48 Geoff Young
All tunes SOCAN/ASCAP Total time     68:49


Track Commentary
Stich discusses each of the eight compositions, as they appear on the CD.
Outward Bound (by Stich Wynston)
Track 01
  This piece starts with an arco bass line which I composed.  The darkness of the line and the effects on the bass give it an ominous feeling which sets the vibe for this piece.  After the bass line comes to a close there is a short moment of silence before the entire ensemble enters with a dark, intense, cacophonous, spaceage, open-ended improvisation.  The bass and drums lay down an open pulse while the effects laden tenor saxophone and guitar synth erratically hover above.  There's a very abstract relationship between the four musicians which is unsettling while the spacey sounds of the instruments give this piece an ethereal, otherworldly quality.

I Think This Party's Over (by Geoff Young)
Track 02
  This Geoff Young composition starts off with an open soundscape which eventually breaks into a dark theme that is punctuated by the tenor saxophone and drums.  I like the concept of this piece which is very reminiscent of Wayne Shorter's Nefertiti where the melody is played repeatedly throughout and acts as a drum feature with Tony Williams improvising over top, embellishing the theme.
Existential Departures (by Geoff Young)

Track 03
  This Geoff Young composition has a very beautiful, yet bleak quality with an open, free, rubato feel.  The instrumentation is of paramount importance with Geoff on acoustic guitar, Jim on arco bass, Stich on brushes and Mike on tenor saxophone.  I particularly enjoy the use of space as the piece unfolds slowly and organically.  The ensemble really takes it's time with nobody in a hurry to get anywhere.  I also really enjoy the dynamics, the sensitive interplay and acute listening that the ensemble displays on this piece.
Surf Aces (by Geoff Young)

Track 04
  This metrically shifting line written by Geoff Young is played in unison by the ensemble.  It then goes into a tenor saxophone solo in 6/8 time with a nice, open feel where the band phrases across the bar line which gives the improvisation a nice sense of suspension.
Spiral Nebula (by Stich Wynston)

Track 05
  This is a solo piece that I composed and play on which is very much in the European concert piano idiom.
Evanescence (by Geoff Young)

Track 06
  The bass and drums establish an open vibe on this Geoff Young composition with the theme stated by the tenor saxophone and guitar.  The guitar solos first followed by the tenor saxophone.  The musicians improvise with a nice sense of space, dynamics and interplay.
Caboose (by Stich Wynston)

Track 07
  This is a composition of mine which is a drum feature.  The tenor saxophone, guitar and bass loosely state the line in unison with accompaniment by the drums and then lay out while I play an extended timbral solo before the theme is restated.
Automatic Entry (by Geoff Young)

Track 08
  I love the mood of this Geoff Young composition and the 'pass the torch' concept.  It starts off with the guitar stating the theme behind mallet drum accompaniment in a duo format.  Then the arco bass joins in for the guitar solo in a trio format.  The guitar then lays out as the arco bass takes over the theme behind the drum accompaniment in a duo format again.  The tenor saxophone then joins in and solos in a trio format behind the drums and pizzicato bass.  Now it's the tenor saxophonist's turn to state the theme behind drum accompaniment in a duo format.  Then the tenor saxophone solos in a trio format with guitar and drum accompaniment.  Finally, the entire ensemble join together to state the theme and bring the piece to a conclusion.
Intergalactic Spheres (by Stich Wynston)

Track 09
  This composition of mine has a looped synthesized line as the backdrop for an open soprano saxophone melody accompanied by guitar synth, bass and drums.  This piece is similar to the first track in that it has an otherworldly quality, but with a different vibe.
New One (by Geoff Young)

Track 10
  An absolutely gorgeous composition by Geoff Young with a ballad type feel featuring beautifully lyrical solos by Mike on tenor saxophone and Geoff on guitar.


Reviews & Comments
Some choice feedback that came in (in the 90's, often by fax!).
Review of "Transparent Horizons"
Dec 2005

by Robert Calder

The intro emerges as heavy bowed bass—buzzy, ominous, sustained. Suddenly there's a thunderstorm, rock drumming, electric guitar, and tenor saxophone. A synthesizer (seldom-used here) wails, but less than the guitar and saxophone, then makes bell sounds and more while the bass goes thudding and bells like a stag before things devolve into the slower, quieter space of the original mood. 

Thus develops Stich Wynston's “Outward Bound.” “I Think This Party's Over” seems a faintly sardonic title for the second track's doomy storm noises, bleating tenor, and integration of textures in which it's hard to say who does what as the group surges into movement, booming backgrounds to the tenor, burgeoning guitar, and bass together in the underlying storm. Is this “party” the whole modern world? 

This music favors intros. Jim Vivian's massive, buzz-edged, echoey bass, punctuated by Wynston, opens Young's “Existential Departures.” Drums supply rhythmic patterns below a three-man bass cembalom imitation. A quasi-oriental theme, thundercrack drumming, bowed bass, and amplified guitar and gentler tenor slow into meditative interplay. The bass swells above, gigantic. Undramatic this ain't. The three melody instruments harmonize and play ominous lines, cut and tempered at times by crack-of-doom drumming. Superficially more playful, with a darting guitar/saxophone/bass prelude, “Surf Aces” becomes a tour-de-force upper register tenor saxophone feature. Passionate stuff.

”Spiral Nebula,” with pedalled, echoing solo piano, is a firmly struck etude, three-plus minutes of European concert music. “Evanescence” opens with the three front line instruments together, intense yet again. Behind the subsequent guitar/bass duet, Wynston helps the bassist sound doomier before the tenor/bass duet lightens things a little. Wynston belabours his drum kit, like the voice of fate. Bass and drums stalk the closing guitar/tenor unison. 

It's all exciting... darkness with spirit. “Caboose” is a complex work for solo percussion, preceded by a band intro. What is Wynston hitting, scratching, and playing drumrolls on (or maybe inside)? Solo percussion with tone colour? Yes! The ensemble ending is like the twanging of a vast string. 

Guitar, bass and drums open “Automatic Entry,” with a bow applied to the strings of the upright bass. And when guitarist Jeff Young decamps, the bass goes way, way down, rising undefeated to support a tenor excursion, with Wynston the tragedian's drums. The guitarist picks up on the tenorist's feeling for beauty in desolation, creating organ chords unaccompanied before the bass comes back from below into a mighty conclusion. 

”Intergalactic Spheres” features a minotaur yowling, a sustained pedal note, and a chiming music box figure repeated and re-repeated as the saxophone rises into high weaving. “New One” hints at Bach before turning into a religious-sounding ballad a shade like Lovano/Motian/Frisell, but supercharged with gargantuan bass. The guitarist's more hymnal section suggests mainstream jazz credentials before a passage in tenor unison, in fugal business with bowed bass. 

[...] The CD insert's yellow spine means that this set belongs in TCB's ”contemporary series.” It's music for black days, sustaining undefeated spirit: there's no discouragement here.
Review of "Transparent Horizons"
June 2005

by Paul Olson

Toronto musician Stich Wynston takes drumming about as far from its timekeeping role as it can possibly go on Transparent Horizons, his first CD since his 1999 eponymous debut on Buzz Records. Wynston and his group Modern Surfaces (saxophone player Mike Murley, guitarist Geoff Young, and bassist Jim Vivian) maintain almost the same lineup as the previous album—only guest pianist Paul Bley is missing. Here they dispense with a pianist, with the exception of “Spiral Nebula,” where Stich himself plays a Debussy-esque solo piano étude, and “Intergalactic Spheres,” where the group plays around a looped piano arpeggio that provides the recording's only rigid time. 

Wynston is obviously influenced by Jack DeJohnette and Paul Motian; he’s got DeJohnette’s muscularity and Motian’s painterly approach. Like fellow Toronto drummer Barry Romberg—who produced the CD—he uses rolling fills and explosive accents to adorn musical space, not to provide metronomic time. Wynston and Young share the compositional credits (four and six tracks each, respectively), and their pieces are of a similar intuitive, impressionistic hue. I’ve sung the praises of Young many times, and his distinctive, spidery lines have never been more appropriate than in this ensemble. Vivian (who plays in Young’s own trio) contributes ruminative lines and rich, resonant arco statements, and Murley’s tenor and curved soprano add an otherworldly, keening presence. 

Because this is otherworldly, even cosmic music. It is not, however, a New Age kind of cosmos; it’s too unsettling. Young’s long “Automatic Entry” may be the sparsest tune here, with Young’s almost spaghetti-western, twanging guitar cagily stating the theme against Wynston’s no-time fills before Vivian (on arco bass) and Murley (on curved soprano) play meditative, glacial solos; meanwhile, Wynston’s drums and hand percussion fill in space, like a painter putting blue here and magenta there. The players seem to be toying with Monk’s “’Round Midnight” in the theme and solos. 

Individual accompanied solos aren’t common here, though; there’s really nothing that qualifies as comping in the traditional sense. Instead, we get the simultaneous four-way interplay of, say, “Existential Departures,” where all the musicians are in a sense soloing at the same time—a sort of space polyphony. This actually requires an acute awareness of what the other musicians are doing; this is a listening band. This peculiar polyphony is also utterly unclaustrophobic: the fifth member of the group on this album is silence. 

The overall impression is often a contradictory one of past and future intersecting. Wynston plays a fascinating, visceral solo on kit and what sounds like sheet metal on “Caboose” (although the song's bookended with a tenor/guitar/rattling-popcorn-drums theme, the solo's in essence the tune) that is both deeply modern and oddly atavistic—like Yanomamo Indians armed with Blackberries and samplers. 

The disc ends with Young’s gorgeous “New One,” an absolutely lovely, melodic (and comparatively conventional) Spanish-tinged number that gently lowers the listener back to terra firma after sixty minutes in an eerie and occasionally frightening deep space. It’s not a journey for the timid—but it’s one very much worth taking. 

Review of "Transparent Horizons"
Sept 2005

by Ken Egbert

Modern Surfaces comes to us with a certain amount of pedigree, as their guitarist is Geoff Young of Barry Romberg's very notable over - there - somewhere jam band, Random Access (reviewed by yours truly in the June 2005 Jazz Now and favorably, I might add).

Recorded and produced in Ontario (by Romberg), we begin "Outward Bound" with a lengthy bowed largo intro from Jim Vivian that draws us into a sound world parallel to, say, later Roscoe Mitchell's, and once Wynston kicks in with no small authority Young and saxophonist Mike Murley enter as well.

I like the spacing of the instruments here [...] It's a sort of rotating shattered Y arrangement: Wynston occupies, amoebalike, the center of the tone field, Vivian bubbles and cooks beneath him in the mix, and the two melodic instruments splutter (Murley) and float (Young) around them.

Murley tests his tenor's capabilities sparingly with scraped pedal points of a kind, while Young prefers to let bowedlike chords drift across the improvising. Very strange. In but not in. Out but not out.

There was some sort of presagement to this on Random Access 3 (see the June issue): one track, "Serenity Now," (Is Romberg a Seinfeld fan? No, I asked that one before) had Young radiating clouds of notes from the center of the piece, fitting willy-nilly through barlike clicks of synthesized marimba.

It was a bit like we've heard British guitarist Brian Godding do in his band Mirage [...] or with the Mike Westbrook Orchestra. Again, very strange. To quote Danny DeVito in Taxi, "But memorable!"

Young's "I Think This Party's Over" is a strangled Eliot Sharp-like blues that opens and closes with a distant if approaching gale of industrial noise. Murley and Wynston flurry at the edges of this massive tube train of sound, Vivan slipping in-under with slow-picked, dreamy figures, and Wynston's double downbeat sort-of coalesces the actual tune. But only sort of. It's a nervous sort of detente that the musicians here have worked out, and the not - exactly - nailed - down air of the music makes it singular.

Anyone who reads too many of my reviews (you'll decide how many or few that is) usually notes that I moan comically how bassists are usually undermiked. Not so here, and Vivian's dark, Schnittke-like tone does the continuum many good turns. One such is his atmospheric picking during the slow antibossa section of "Surf Aces," under Young's neutral-drive Jazz-club phrases and Murley's relatively peaceful alto. Love that head melody, kind of Monk - meets - Laurindo - Almeida.

I also go for this group's sense of time. "Existential Departures" runs over eleven minutes, and here it's Vivian and Wynston's turn to hover at the edges; Murley and Young (on acoustic guitar) do long, twinned, serpentine phrases à la Terje Rypdal's 1980s ECM releases (especially Descendre). Beautifully odd. Again, in but not in, out but not out. Not clinically so, either, not like, say, Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht.

The closing ditty "New One" also has a tentative air, thanks to Wynston's commenting melodically as much as anyone else on the wintry central chorale trotted out by the remainder of the band.

[...] there's lots more good stuff up ahead, like Young and Murley holding "Evanescence" together while Wynston and Vivian wig out around them; or Wynston's hail of dropped baseballs detonating all around and through "Caboose"; or the piano ostinato that gives one something to hang onto for dear life as Young's ballooning sustained synclavier notes strain to contain multitudes.

Here it's Vivian, Murley, and Wynston who overlap, converse, and talk past one another in a hunt for common ground of the sort you'd see in a Joe McElroy novel. Missed connections, indeed. But memorable.

It's all really good, really weird stuff that shows the quartet form isn't dead just yet. Care must always be taken in the finding or re-exploring of new or familiar ground, but this CD shows that the ragged space between in and out also has a few more secrets to cough up.

by Ken Egbert
Jazz Now Interactive September 2005 Vol 15 No. 5


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