AMN Reviews: Anna Webber – Rectangles (2020; Out of Your Head Records)

Recorded live last December, but not initially intended for release, this 34-minute piece from Anna Webber, Marc Hannaford, Adam Hopkins, and Mark Ferber is an unexpected but welcome offering. Webber is the muscular and expressive saxophonist whose compositions are intensely modern and convoluted. She has put out a series of stellar recordings as leader and co-leader over the last decade, and seems to be growing more confident in her unorthodox stylings with each one. And Rectangles is a solid fit on that regression line. Indeed, the album follows Webber’s approach on Binary, where she used Internet constructs to guide her writing. Here, it was a YouTube test channel.

There is a troubled, yet energetic, anxiety present as Webber directs the group through staccato-laden and staggered rhythms. Hopkins and Ferber navigate these with skill, cutting through the complexity with grit and flares of their own creativity. Hannaford plays percussively, accompanying Webber’s exploratory solos. While clearly improvising, Webber centers around and gets mileage out of a number of discrete themes, some of which she takes to the edge of going outside without quite taking that leap. But her contributions are often rhythmic as well, which allows her bandmates to break out, though in a controlled fashion. Toward the middle of the track, musical structures loosen up and at first blush sound free-form. But upon closer listens, the quartet is largely staying within Webber’s system.

Tangled but not impenetrable, Rectangles will be available for download at the end of the month. If anything, the rawness of this recording complements and dovetails nicely with Webber’s sense of discipline. Do not hesitate one bit.