Jimmy Ghaphery calls it “lowercase improv,” a term that loosely describes an improvised music that is restrained in activity and minimal in texture. It summarizes the general aesthetic of Impermanence well, but does little service to the interactions between the three musicians.
Jimmy Ghaphery, Jason Bivins, Ian Davis
Umbrella Recordings, 2005
Jimmy Ghaphery calls it “lowercase improv,” a term that loosely describes an improvised music that is restrained in activity and minimal in texture. It summarizes the general aesthetic of Impermanence well, but does little service to the interactions between the three musicians. There’s an eerie beauty and fragility here, but to suggest that it’s inferior to a more fervent and abrasive improvised style of music would be incorrect.
Tenor and alto saxophonist and flutist Ghaphery is a staple of Richmond’s jazz and improvised music scene as an original member of Hotel X. Since 2000, he has played with New Loft, a trio so passionately involved with improvised music that it has met weekly for years at a band member’s house to record spontaneous compositions.
On Impermanence, Ghaphery also makes up one third of the ensemble. Guitarist Jason Bivins was not too far from his home in North Carolina when he first met Ghaphery in 2002 at an art gallery show in downtown Richmond. The two hit it off musically and began a long friendship that soon included a musical accomplice of Bivins, percussionist Ian Davis, also of North Carolina.
In 2004, at multiple jam sessions at Davis’s home (which just happened to double as a recording studio), the trio recorded nine pieces, each named for a degree of impermanence: Almost, Nearly, Quite, Just, Barely, Partly, Approximately, Close, and Once. Months later, as an afterthought to what was originally nothing more than a deep and focused jam, they released the album on Davis’s Umbrella Recordings.
Much of the music is wholly conversational, like on “Barely.” Davis lays the foundation but never rules himself out of the discussion. Their techniques on their given instruments, at least when combined together, exceed orthodoxy. Ghaphery spits air and blows multiphonics, Davis rattles objects and scrapes cymbals, and Bivins picks alien fret noises and swells voluminous long tones.
Their correspondence, like in “Nearly,” is sometimes a cross between futurism and Neanderthal, but it develops until their time paths converge. Ghaphery notes the group’s ability to dip into different improv schools without pigeonholing themselves, which means if you’re a first time listener you’ll notice variety between the pieces without putting your finger on the schools that they draw from.
A self-described “bull in a china shop,” Ghaphery was inspired by the musical restraint shown by Bivins and Davis. The restraint, and then the occasional defiance of that restraint, is Impermanence‘s greatest feature and its most captivating quality.
Tracks: Almost, Nearly, Quite, Just, Barely, Partly, Approximately, Close, Once.
Personnel: Jimmy Ghaphery: tenor and alto saxophones, flute; Jason Bivins: guitar; Ian Davis: percussion.
Purchase at Umbrella Recordings