Trumpeter Sam Boshnack (Sam as in Samantha, rather than Samuel or Samwise) has played with Butch Morris, Eyvind Kang, Oliver Lake, Bobby Previte, Terry Riley, Stuart Dempster, Wayne Horvitz, Jessica Lurie, and Amy Denio among others. This, the first recording of her quintet, features Beth Fleenor on clarinet and vocals, Dawn Clement on keyboards, Isaac Castillo on bass, and Max Wood on drums. The collective fits into a growing jazz niche, not free jazz yet far from mainstream, combining both improvisation and composition.
The centerpiece of the album is the three-part, 18-minute Suite for Seattle’s Royal Court. Boshnack manages to show off the quintet’s chops, her compositional angularity, and some granular delicacy. In the third movement especially, Castillo’s bass carries the group on a steady climb through a controlled improv, with a few distractions here and there. Xi is a more introspective piece featuring bowed bass and bass clarinet to good measure. The title track is perhaps the most aggressive, invoking a bit of John Zorn with Fleenor’s death-metal-like scat vocals over the top of heavy riffing.
Not unlike fellow trumpet-wielder Daniel Rosenboom, Boshnack shows what a five-piece jazz band is capable of in a post-Miles world. Boshnack’s tight writing gives a nod to the traditional sound, but is exciting and fresh.