David Zakarian’s new album 11 challenges me to redefine the meaning of music.
Music isn’t merely tempo, measures, chord progressions, or intervals, but that it could also be theater, as it achieves meaning through space, time and phrases (there are some wonderful phrases that dissipates into the silence quietly). One person cannot judge it to be a collage of sounds. All of the songs feature him on the saxophone and Mariano Gabriel Chamorro on the percussion. The album began as a continuous improvisation that split into tracks according to their continuity. In the process of critiquing the the album, more importantly, I hope the pleasure of unpacking the composition comes across, and that all listeners can find the enjoyment as well. Please listen to “11” first on his soundcloud to get a taste of the album.
Titles are the first place to begin searching for meaning. They give me an angle in which to bend my ears although the music doesn’t overtly render abstract terms. In the song “Gut feeling” you don’t get the overt sense of anxiety you might find in a Disney movie where the character is trapped in jail cell, with diminished minor chords and sustained trills. Zakarian’s meaning of “Gut feeling” is made of unpleasant shrill sounds like mice crying in an empty sewage drain. At 1:11 unexpectedly military snares chase you down the spacious dwelling to the end of falling saxophone notes.
“The Coast” has more of the conventions that you might expect from a jazz album. There are some romantic phrases that display Zakarian’s skills as a saxophone player, but then it still bears all the experimental and theatrics that occur throughout the album, without any clear chord progression or tempo that would make the average listener complacent. It is purely thought, and I take the romantic phrases as mimes of the beautiful coastal landscapes; then again, however, the harshness of the percussion render the scientific aspect of nature and all its dangers.
Drums play an important role in the texture of the song. Mentioned earlier was that it created a sense of space. Specifically Chomorro compliments Zakarian’s saxophone very well in “The Coast.” At 1:32 the rapid hi-hats and the brushes rolling laterally on the head of the snare sound like the wheels on a train track. Under the melancholy saxophone phrases, I can’t help but imagine an individual leaving a sentimental town in the 1950’s when human contact was difficult from long distances. The next forty seconds continues in this manner until the airy brass sounds reach an eerie perplexing end.
11 is closer to theater than it is to music, by which I mean, the conventional sense. You won’t “work” anything like Rhianna or “cut” anything like O.T. Genasis; you won’t even find “easy,” as in “easy listening,” that tends to be stereotyped in jazz music. What you will discover is an individual articulating its thought in a wide space. You might find raw frustration, raw romanticism, and raw delight. You can buy it now on iTunes here.