CD The Gift Economy (CD 1331755),
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The Gift Economy

  • 1. Banner, The
    2. Des Moines
    3. Two Ghosts at the Middle
    4. Grant Park
    5. Light Tilts Out, The
    6. Gift, A
  • Additional Info
    Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 67

  • Credits

    Composer: Toby Summerfield.
    Never Enough Hope: Aram Shelton (alto saxophone); Frank Rosaly (drums); Tobin Summerfield.
    Personnel: Nathaniel Braddock (guitar); Dina Maccabee (violin); Amy Cimini (viola); Dave Rempis (alto saxophone); Keefe Jackson (tenor saxophone); Colin Stetson (bass saxophone); Brian Lipson (trumpet); Dan Sylvester (vibraphone); Jason Ajemian (electric bass); Tim Strand (drums).
    Recording information: Electrical Audio, Chicago, IL (01/15/2007).
    Toby Summerfield is a guitar and bass player, but for his Never Enough Hope project he serves only as composer and conductor. But for an ensemble this size, that's plenty. It's a massive assemblage of friends old and new (including some of Chicago's up-and-coming players) consisting of two drummers; two bass players (electric and acoustic); two guitars; two vibes; two violins; two trumpets; two alto saxes; viola; cello; and tenor, bass, and baritone saxes. The tunes use the repetition of minimalism, the language of jazz, and the power of a rock band in a wonderful polyrhythmic mlange of hypnotic guitars, riffing horns, and cool rhythms that exists somewhere near the intersection of Steve Reich, Larval, and Charles Mingus (or maybe Don Ellis, given some of the time signatures). The songs are fairly long, but don't play that way because they're really well written and arranged. Summerfield has a knack for layering different musical lines and ideas and has a great sense of dynamics. There is soloing here and there, but the focus on this album is on the songs themselves and how the instrumentation interacts. It's not so much a case of the musicians coming in and playing Summerfield's tunes as much as it is Summerfield playing the ensemble as an instrument. The tracks evolve very organically as Summerfield adds and subtracts parts with a strong sense of both continuity and forward momentum. Elements will build and progress, then drop out almost like a live dub track, only to rebuild in another direction. The final track ("A Gift") seems at first like a complete change of gears into singer/songwriter territory. It's a sweet song, but just when you're thinking Summerfield should really stick to writing and arranging (and not singing), he completely redeems himself by singing "No, I'm not much of a singer/Hope it doesn't hurt my song" just before the song goes into a absolutely gorgeous coda. The album is filled with surprising and delightful changes and juxtapositions, and is utterly engaging, even when the tracks go beyond ten minutes in length. While it's easy enough to dissect the elements and discern the influences, the music of Never Enough Hope comes together in a wholly original way. It rocks, it swings, and yet it's almost as thoroughly composed as classical music. The Gift Economy is an impressive debut that succeeds in marrying a number of disparate musical influences into something unique and very personal. And it's a real pleasure to listen to as well. It just goes to show that even a well-known music town like Chicago has some amazing things going on way under everyone's radar. Nicely done. ~ Sean Westergaard

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