Brian Adler's Helium Project - "Phase 1"


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Circavision Productions
By Richard B. Kamins

For a fairly young man, drummer-composer Brian Adler has had a busy life. He's studied with such modern “masters" as Billy Hart, John Hollenbeck, Billy Higgins, Bob Moses, Joe Morris and Cecil McBee as well as sharing the stage with Pablo Aslan, Ran Blake, Frank Carlberg, Marilyn Crispell, Mark Helias, Erik Lawrence, Kate McGarry, Ben Monder, and Ray Vega. He's the leader of The Prana Trio, is a member of bassist Aslan's Trio and several other working ensembles performing on stages throughout the world. Adler has his own company, Circavison Productions, through which he has released a half dozen CDs (including 3 by The Prana Trio) and he teaches.

This week (May 24) sees the release of the “Phase 1" of the Helium Music Project. Essentially what Adler is doing is creating a coterie of collaborators throughout the world, musicians and vocalists he can work with when he is “on the road." You may have read of musicians who travel sans rhythm section and hire a local band/rhythm section for each gig. Through the “magic" of modern technology, Adler can compose, record, and edit a piece of music with anyone, anywhere, and any time. You may be thinking “what's the difference between hiring a local rhythm section and creating a song in this piecemeal fashion?" Through the Helium Music Project, Brian Adler has turned the world into his playground in that he already has a working relationship with his collaborators.

The “proof," as they have said, “of the pudding is in the eating." “Phase 1" is 2 songs, the first titled “Lazy River" and featuring Kate McGarry (pictured left,vocals), Peter Ehwald (tenor saxophone), Benedikt Jahnel (piano), Dave Eggar (cello) and Adler on drums. A poem by Federico Garcia Lorca set to music by Adler and singer/songwriter Evan McCullough, recording took place in Berlin, Germany (Ehwald and Jahnel), North Carolina and New York City. Building out from the vocal and Egger's singing cello lines, the sound is seamless, the emotions real and the results rewarding. Listening to Ehwald solo over the spare piano chords and shimmering cymbal work, one cannot tell the musicians are separated by thousands of miles. For me, this speaks to the power of friendship, of maturity (both personal and musical) and trust. Adler has worked with each of his cohorts on many occasions and the “proof" is this exquisite 7 minutes of music.

Track 2 is an attractive reading of Hermeto Pascoal's “Andie" (pronounced “ahn-day) performed by Adler (on trap set, midi drums and tablas), Nicky Schrire (vocals, pictured left), Nick Kadjaski (alto saxophone), Sean Moran (nylon-string guitar) and Mark Lau (bass, effects, production). Ms. Schrire is a South African (by way of London, England) now living in New York City while Lau is an Australian now based in the city (where the piece was recorded.) Built upon the bouncing bass line and the percussive acoustic guitar, the alluring rhythm draws the listener in and, like the best Brazilian music, does so making one want to move, to dance. The way the vocalist interacts with the saxophonist and guitarist, the active bass lines, the tabla bubbling near the surface, all have a mesmerizing effect on the listener.

Brian Adler says future “phases" will feature guitarist Ben Monder, pianist Marilyn Crispell, fellow percussionist Daniel “Pipi" Piazzolla, vocalist Heather Masse, pianist Kenny Werner, trumpeter Matt Holman and many others. In fact, considering all the connections Adler has already made in the music “world" (and the ones he will make in the future), the Helium Project promises many years of fine music.

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