Arboreal Quartet
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Arboreal Quartet

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19 October 2010

There have been few times in my life when music has caused me to shed tears. Interestingly, all of these heart swelling tear inducers have been instrumental. John Coltrane ’s “Spiritual”, Albert Ayler ’s “Ghosts: First Variations” and Ravel ’s “Pavane Pour Un Enfant Defunte” (the solo piano version). To that list I can now add the opening track, “Theme”, from The Arboreal Quartet ’s debut.

Based in Montreal, The Arboreal Quartet may seem at first glance to be of the “global jazz” ilk, following a path trod prior by Ry Cooder and V.M. Bhatt ’s A Meeting By The River in it’s fusing of guitar and sarode music. In this writer’s opinion that watermark is here surpassed, not necessarily in it’s musicianship (which is masterful), but in it’s successful crafting of it’s own language. The cast of the music draws from jazz and traditional Indian music, naturally, but the scaffold of the songs are less a platform for endless virtuosic soloing than a series of linked vignettes.. poignant without feeling maudlin, engaging without overreaching or overstaying the ear’s welcome. Songs like “Mountain” for example, build on deceptively simple motifs set forth by the sarode and guitar, are garnished by mellifluous sprinklings of solo work and held firmly in place by the tasteful upright bass and brushed drums. Without a scrap of lyric, the songs manage to be incredibly lyrical, singing images pleasantly into the mind’s ear. The attentive listener is transported into splendid harbors of bright and comforting light and shade, to the point where the texture of the music is almost palpable to the touch.

Spearheaded by Montreal musician John Wrinch Williams (sarode), The Arboreal Quartet also includes Tom Eliosoff (guitar), Fernando Gelso (drums) and J.F. Martins on bass. On this, their self-titled debut as an ensemble, all are playing with the virtuosity and restraint evident in players at the top of their abilities. One listen is enough to leave an indelible impression on your soul. Isn’t that why we play, listen to and seek out music in the first place? A beautiful, deep and triumphant album. - The Big Takeover (Brooklyn, NY)


ARBOREAL QUARTET CD LAUNCH
March 5, 2010 @ O Patro Vys

review and photos by Shannon Gibara

Blasting into the scene is the Arboreal Quartet. They blew us all away at O Patro Vys on March 5, 2010 with their blend of Indian Progressive Rock. Their mix of harmonies created a completely relaxed atmosphere where the crowd was entranced. Couples cuddled and the crowd swayed to the beat of their music. They played their fans some of their earlier compositions, and then introduced their new album. Inspired by Peter Gabriel, among others, they are a must see for those who are looking for an original, serene group to listen to. - Montreal Music Scene


CD REVIEW
Arboreal Quartet: The Arboreal Quartet (self-released)

Warning: innocent world music fans may find the Arboreal Quartet to be a gateway to the insidious world of jazz. And for that matter, jazz purists listening to this album may just find themselves entertaining a hitherto unexpressed curiosity about ethnic instruments. Thus is the curious impact of this Montreal-based quartet, which makes beautiful instrumental music that peeks over the fence between jazz and global sounds. Three-quarters of the group is standard jazz stuff: Tom Eliosoff on guitar, Fernando Gelso on drums, and J.F. Martins on bass. The unexpected twist comes though the sarode of John Wrinch Williams.

A cousin to the sitar, this Hindustani instrument takes on a variety of tones under Williams' capable fingertips. Sometimes it finds an interplay with the guitar with similar tones; sometimes it becomes twangy like a banjo. And sometimes its bent notes evoke slide guitar (or, yes, sitar).

Williams is also the group's composer and arranger, though that doesn't mean his sarode is always front and center. Gelso's crisp drumming and Martins' smooth upright bass (often sounding more like a bass guitar) provide the songs' heartbeat and identity sometimes more than the other players' melodic lines. The album includes no song notes to explain the story of the songs, all titled with a single word ("Lucky," "Upswing," "Dang," "Shift"). My favorite so far is the upbeat swing-reggae-jazz number "Snap." Don't think too much about the song names; find your meaning in the music, an unusual, rich, and surprising blend of crisp world-jazz instrumentals.

While the group clearly would like you to buy their CD, it appears you can also download it from their website (link below) and make a donation. Play nice.

By the way, there's no indication in their literature that the band lives up to their name by playing their concerts while perched in trees. Though I haven't seen them live, so I can't yet be certain.... - SoundRoots World Music & Global Culture


The Arboreal Quartet (2009)

It's a warm sunny Sunday afternoon. Or perhaps a cool, rainy Saturday in fall. Or, maybe a sunrise with mist and dew gently covering the green outside your window. When you listen to the new CD by The Arboreal Quartet, it could be any of these occasions. The Montreal-based quartet is led by John Wrinch Williams, who also wrote all the songs on the disc. While the band has guitar, bass, and drums, what sets it apart aurally from other ensembles is Williams' playing of a traditional Indian instrument, the Sarode (think of a sitar without frets). The music itself has multiple influences from jazz, roots, and because of the Sarode, Indian classical music. The guys are all fine players, and they work well together. No one is trying to flash dominant brilliance here, but they blend and meld as all good ensembles do. The music is in no hurry, but ebbs and flows, carrying the listener to that rare place of quiet listening, uncovering graceful melodies along the way. "Shift" meanders, winding down a rolling stream or on a country road. "Mountain" begins like a soft jazz piece, but changes pace midway through into another gear. The drone of the Sarode takes over the melody on "Dang," passing to guitarist Tom Eliosoff, then back to the dreamy tones of the Sarode. "Snap" is a perky little shuffle, that, when the Sarode plays, brings to mind all those Bollywood films. The 10-song CD ends with "Dee," showcasing each player in a fitting ending to a fine recording of very nice tunes.

© Kirk Albrecht
minor7th.com - Minor 7th


Discography

Arboreal Quartet - the Arboreal Quartet (2010)

Photos

Bio

"..beautiful instrumental music that peeks over
the fence between jazz and global sounds"
- Scott Stevens, SoundRoots.org & Spin The Globe radio

“It's unbelievable the different musical influences that [John] manages to make shine in this quartet's music.”
- Laurie Brown - The Signal, CBC Radio 2

The Arboreal Quartet, from Montréal, Québec, was founded by multi-instrumentalist John Wrinch Williams. John's musical background includes formal training in Hindustani music in India and in California, jazz instruction in Toronto, apprenticeships in traditional music in Ontario and Québec, teaching, and much experience in performance and composition for a variety of instruments and ensembles. John plays the sarod, the 25-stringed relative of the sitar, and is the composer/arranger.

On acoustic guitar, Tom Eliosoff is very active in the Montréal jazz scene, performing with the Chet Doxas Quartet and Eric Thibodeau, teaching, and hosting jazz nights at noted Montréal Jazz clubs such as Upstairs and Grumpy's. On upright bass, JF Martins, from Schefferville, Québec, is a multi-instrumentalist himself and brings a melodic touch to the instrument. Drummer Fernando Gelso, originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, is also a member of the Franco Proietti Morph-tet along with JF.

The Arboreal Quartet's debut – an self-titled instrumental CD -- is an independent release, and features original artwork by artist Carl David Ruttan. It was recorded live in one studio session.

The CD launched on Friday March 5th, 2010 at O Patro Vys in Montréal, and is receiving significant radio airplay:

#3 - Exclaim! magazine Jazz chart - July 2010 issue
#4 - Exclaim! magazine Jazz chart - June 2010 issue
#2 - ChartAttack Jazz/Blues chart - June 12, 2010
#1 - !earshot Jazz chart - June 8, 2010