Astral Long Form: Staircase In Space


"Drummer-percussionist Whit Dickey channels ecstatic cosmic vibration together with a stellar quartet on Astral Long Form: Staircase In Space, his second album as a leader for TAO Forms. The album also features alto saxophonist Rob Brown, violist Mat Maneri and bassist Brandon Lopez. 'The interaction between players is perfect. Entrances, exits, the space between sound and silence, all meeting at the right moment. This is great human music that will stand up to any dark forces in any universe.' --William Parker, in his liner notes for the album. Since his launch of the TAO Forms label in 2020, Whit Dickey has curated a remarkable series of releases showcasing some of the most astonishing voices in modern jazz & creative music. Among them was/is James Brandon Lewis' Jesup Wagon which topped several year end 'Best of 2021' lists, including #1 in JazzTimes Critics' Poll and the coveted top spot in the 2021 international Jazz Critics Poll established by Francis Davis. TAO Forms has also provided an outlet for Dickey's own vital work -- first with 2020's breathtaking trio date, Expanding Light, featuring his 30+ year colleague, maestro alto saxophonist Rob Brown & young firebrand bassist Brandon Lopez. Those same musicians return in quartet here -- joined by violist Mat Maneri, another virtuoso with whom Dickey shares a long history. Astral Long Form is without doubt one of the drummer's most adventurous & fully realized works to date. These five conceptually interwoven pieces as performed by this intuitive quartet may well come to be considered his masterwork -- one of them, at least. There is a sustained, enrapturing mode that unites its five parts. In keeping with the drummer's yin/yang view of musical balance -- exemplified not only by the name of the label, but in the duality of Dickey's previous quartet release, Peace Planet / Box of Light, this album opens immediately into a heretofore under-explored expanse. Staircase in Space luxuriates in open space and atmospheres, untethered from the common notion of time. Regarding the album title, Dickey explains: 'It's a long form in the sense that the music stays in a long vibration ringing throughout its rhythmic underpinning. These vibrations form a growing staircase and the phenomenon goes on ad infinitum.' He continues, 'I was looking for something more relaxing, where I could ground myself, the way I can when I hear Cecil Taylor or John Coltrane. I like that feeling where everything seems to float -- it's comfortable.'"