Russ Johnson - trumpet
Chris Madsen - tenor saxophone
Dan Bruce - guitar/effects/compositions
Rob Clearfield - piano/Fender Rhodes
Clark Sommers - bass
Jon Deitemyer - drums
A powerhouse group including some of Chicago’s finest improvisers, Dan Bruce’s :beta collective steps into the spotlight with their debut album, Earthshine. Bruce describes the new album as “a tone poem on order and chaos, and the acceptance of both in the moment.” He goes on to explain, “It is a patchwork of moods and textures, underpinned by an overwhelming feeling of joy and gratitude”. A hallmark of the compositions is the interaction between highly composed music and free improvisation, much of it set to expansive and driving grooves.
Led by guitarist and composer Dan Bruce, who has been called “a lyrical musician with a thoroughly modern bent, based on a firm grasp of the tradition” (bassist Lynn Seaton), the group includes trumpeter Russ Johnson, saxophonist Chris Madsen, keyboardist Rob Clearfield, bassist Clark Sommers, and drummer Jon Deitemyer. He composed the album with these players in mind, knowing that they would bring a level of risk, immediacy, and spontaneity that goes well beyond the written page. Dan brings a style of his own, informed by a wide variety of genres and drawing upon a large palette.
Bruce has been a mainstay in the Chicago jazz scene for the past decade and has been on an impressive number of releases as a sideman. His first album as a leader, A Single Thread (2007), was released to critical acclaim. Martin Gladu of allaboutjazz.com
explains that the album “…combines his learned guitar work, which is at times reminiscent of Ben Monder, with substantive yet airy, contemporary sounding compositions.” This much-anticipated follow up album signals an exciting new chapter in Bruce’s career as a writer and guitarist.
The term earthshine refers to the glow caused by sunlight reflected off the earth, especially on the darker portion of a crescent moon. Bruce explains, “For me, looking up at the moon once a day is an easy way to remember my place and to stay grounded and in the moment. I am deeply grateful to be a part of this experiment, and the more mindful I am of that the deeper my experience. While I continue to work on a better understanding, I also try to embrace the role of chaos in the world and in my life. This line of thinking bears a striking resemblance to performing improvised music. I am always striving to be present in the moment and doing my best to navigate the music in an orderly way. At the same time, when it is going well I am able to let in some of the chaos and see what happens. So when I am fortunate to make music with people on the level of this group, I can just tell myself ‘look up and remember you are not in control’.”