James Ilgenfritz, the NYC-based bassist and composer, comes forward as a leader with his latest album, #entrainments. Born from his personal struggle and triumphant recovery from brain surgery, this avant-garde and chordless expedition serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit of a musician facing adversity. Ilgenfritz’s musical prowess, combined with raw emotional depth, results in an album that bristles with moments of avant-garde madness, technical brilliance, and deep groove.
#entrainments opens with the enigmatic track “#frontmatter,” immediately drawing the listener to Ilgenfritz’s bass as it becomes the driving force, leading the quartet through a labyrinth of abstract melodies and unexpected rhythmic shifts. The absence of chordal instruments creates an open canvas, allowing the musicians to wander freely, unencumbered by harmonic constraints. Angelika Niescier, Nathan Bontrager, and Gerry Hemingway on alto saxophone, cello, and drums respectively, are sensitive and daring in their musical judgement making for some fascinating improvisations and interplay.
The absence of a chordal instrument provides a sense of liberation, allowing the bass to assume a multifaceted role, simultaneously acting as a rhythmic anchor, a melodic guide, and an improvisational catalyst. Ilgenfritz’s addition of cello was an interesting choice, as of course the bass and cello occupy much of the same sonic range, but the cello adds an orchestral element that adds a really lovely touch on tracks like “#saladdays” and “#dungeonmaster”. As far as avant-garde albums go this is definitely on the more accessible side because of it.