On State of the Union pianist/composer Frank Carlberg continues his mission to merge modern jazz composition with off-beat poetry as he did on In the Land of Art, his previous release for Fresh Sound New Talent. On this collection the Finnish native gives thoughtful treatment to the words of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Anselm Hollo and others through imaginative musical settings ranging from hard-driving swing to free-form explorations.
The first three tracks, "The Word Is," "We Much Prefer" and "State of the Union" form Carlberg’s "The Presidential Suite." The title track mixes spoken-word fragments of the Bill of Rights with words by Allen Ginsberg. Although the piece starts out like a modern day version of Aaron Copland’s "Lincon Portrait," it quickly dissolves into a dark, angry foray of disdainful sentiment towards the current political climate in the U.S.
Carlberg’s piano playing moves from an unobtrusive role, blending into the overall texture of each composition, to spontaneous movement through elaborate soloing. His solo on "Sight is Just Dust," for example, builds layer upon layer of developed thematic variations. The pianist unravels his lines with a revealing sense of urgency while retaining an ever-so-patient sense of swing.
Vocalist Christine Correa smoothes out the edges of the music’s angular, drawn-out phrases with a silky, warm-blanket tone, bringing musical comfort to the cold, at times cynical, poetic settings. With magnificent control she delivers a convincing case for the text, managing unbelievably precise pronunciation against, in the case of "The Word Is" and "Song of the Washing Machine," Carlberg’s melodic twists and turns.
Tenor saxophonist Chris Cheek winds through the unconventional harmonies with an inexhaustible wealth of melodic ideas. His solos on the ultra-chromatic "Apple" and the Monk inspired "Red Piano" traverse fresh, unfamiliar and delightfully surprising terrain.
An accompanist of tireless effort, bassist John Hebert contributes inventive and lyrical solos on "We Much Prefer" and "Disemboweled Babies." Drummer Michael Sarin provides sympathetic support with the perfect blend of finesse and intensity.
State of the Union is an ambitious and daring project. Through impeccable recruitment of like-minded collaborators and inspired composing, Carlberg succeeds in bringing a bold musical vision to life.