AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Apocryphal in New York, Sept. 18, 2014

by Monique Avakian


Vinnie Sperrazza – drums, compositions
Brandon Seabrook – guitar
Loren Stillman – alto sax
Eivind Opsvik – bass

Cornelia Street Cafe, NYC
CD Release
Cornelia Street Café, September 18, 2014

As I walked my own crooked trail to the venue, I met a man in monk’s robes. He gave me a golden ticket and a bracelet. But when I wouldn’t give him any money, he took them back! Hey! Didn’t he just mention the name of the Dalai Lama? A moment ago, wasn’t he speaking of love and peace? Oh, 6th Avenue! Ah! Apocryphal!

Apocryphal. A word and a concept. Perhaps even a lifestyle. First definition reads “false.” The second: “dubious.” Going deeper, you encounter cycles of biblical texts unearthed, locked away and subsumed. Rome is involved. Greece is presented at root. You begin to wonder about the earlier incarnations of the word created at the tribal and Goddess levels (which are not yet included in Wikipedia)….

Whatever your starting point for definitions and context, you’ll need 5 or 6 shovels at least as you dig in to the hidden secrets of these complex yet accessible songs brought to life by Vinnie Sperrazza, et al.

On stage at Cornelia Street Café on Sept. 18, 2014, the music was delivered from the heart, through freedom, and with playful mastery. The energy level of these four stellar musicians could not have been more intense, but I never felt overwhelmed by sound or ideas. Parts of the compositions felt eerily familiar at odd moments, yet the trajectories of sound and the narrative arc of ideas were completely unique.

It was easy for listeners to get on board, and many times I heard supportive laughter and hearty vocalizations from the large and wildly diverse crowd as we all thrilled to be part of this marvelous joyride.


Brandon Seabrook: electric guitar

Free and fluid, and like a living fractal, Seabrook propels his ideas out and further out, alternately leading and supporting through woven sounds characterized by texture. With playful integrity, he fades in and out with these sound thrusts that bend the ear through dimensions of clarity. Functioning almost as a human Theremin for the group, Seabrook simultaneously prepares the field and plows the way. Timothy Leary’s got nothing on this cat – Seabrook opens every door that materializes.

Eivind Opsvik: bass

Rudder. Compass. Tinder. Rhythmically, the challenges created by this group are vast and rapid in succession, yet, no turn goes unattended by this bass player’s firm command of form and function. Mr. Opsvik’s dependability as an inventive, responsive band-mate is perhaps only matched by his virtuosity as a soloist. The beauty of his improvisations illuminate an essence of melody in these compositions that otherwise would be lost.

Loren Stillman: alto sax

In fitting contrast, Mr. Stillman’s approach invokes the natural world: birds, waves, curves, streams, arcs, flutters, orbs, and spheres. Planetary revolutions. Hearty gusts of wind whispering passwords through keyholes. Living fields of light filled with subterranean creatures of essential import. Intellectually, it is obvious that Stillman carries forth themes and concepts through complex structural understanding, but as a listener you don’t have to get into all that unless you want to. This unassuming sax-man has nothing to do with false walls, superficial categories or meaningless slots of definition. Stillman’s oeuvre of being is open to anyone’s level of understanding, and if you just let his sound wash over you, you will know intuitively why Mr. Sperrazza kept grinning at him that night at Cornelia.

Vinnie Sperrazza: drummer, composer

Mr. Sperrazza’s way in is filled with surprises. As a drummer, that night and always, he takes incredible chances with improvised phrases of uber-varied character, often inserting percussive commentary at unexpected moments. It would be easy for him to get into a “schtick” with all this, but he deftly avoids all traps, and I think it’s because he has such a big heart and a generous nature. Anyone who knows anything about drums knows right away that you are dealing with a percussionist who is highly knowledgeable of the canon and technically able to achieve anything; yet, Sperrazza does not allow his ego to rule–he remains a true bridge-builder, exemplifying what it means to lead from the back. Or, rather, the side. Or, from below. Or maybe the space between. Or, perhaps from within: you decide.

As for my reaction to his work as a composer, I don’t even know where to begin. That’s why I really wanted to write this as a 3-dimensional sculpture, but I couldn’t figure out how to fit that inside this machine. However, I think you get the sense of the mystery, import, free-spirited-fun-loving-depth of muscianship, and much appreciated dramatic wackiness of tone involved in this incredible music. Please don’t misunderstand what it means to be playful and creative in the world we’re living in. As with every Shakespearean jest, the kernel of eternal wisdom is buried deep inside the joke. Don’t be fooled; you’re gonna get wise inside this music even though at first you think you’re just laughing your head off because you thought you were spinning out during a car chase scene involving your brother’s copper-colored Camaro.

Apocryphal. Vinnie Sperrazza never directly uses the image of a treasure chest, but there you have it.

Vinnie Sperrazza – drums, compositions
Brandon Seabrook – guitar
Loren Stillman – alto sax
Eivind Opsvik – bass
Loyal Label
Producer Geoff Kraly

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