The mind of an artist can be at times difficult to comprehend. Artists often view the world around them with different lenses than most and are unafraid to attempt new and novel experiments for the sake of art, creativity, and their own personal bemusement. In what we’d like to believe began at a post-gig hang somewhere in Brooklyn perhaps after one too many IPAs, pianist Jacob Sacks had an idea, a peculiar one at that. What would happen if the children’s game of “broken telephone” was readapted to create a collective and egalitarian system for members of a musical group to compose as a unit? He enlisted the help of saxophonist Chet Doxas, bassist Zack Lober, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, and devised a cunning plan which entailed a strict two-week deadline after which a fledgling composition would be passed on to the next member of the collective, until everyone had a turn, and leaving the final composer to title the work. No other guidelines where given. “If you wanted to completely ignore what was done prior, that was a valid reaction. Or if you decided, ‘I’m not changing a thing!’—that was also a valid reaction. And every gray area in between,” recalls Sacks. The result is Brooklyn collective Landline’s debut and self-titled album, a wickedly creative work of art if we might add, coming November 1st to the Loyal Label.
The experiment has been revelatory to all. “It was almost a lark at first,” says Doxas, who co-leads the band Riverside with trumpeter Dave Douglas. “But it made sense and it seemed to be a unifying principle right away.” Lober describes the process as “complete surrender, which was at the same time completely liberating. Maybe my work got changed or maybe it didn’t—but that was none of my business. I just did my job to serve the music and let it go.” According to Sperrazza, “the most interesting aspect for me was how rigorous the process could be.” As for Sacks, he “found it to be a breath of fresh air to not have to do everything myself, to have somebody else’s thoughts to be able to ponder.”
The album is undoubtedly quirky and at times experimental, but we applaud Landline for following through until the end with the singular concept, if just for art’s sake and for pushing the boundaries of creativity. The collective even has a release tour (see dates below) where scores will be distributed to the audience and available to musicians online, blurring the line between jazz education and performance. Also, on November 3rd at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, visual artists and recent Barnard College graduates Maya Stackhouse, Suyi Xu, Iris Wechsler, and Alley Horn will complete four canvases using the Landline process, as the band plays four sets starting at 7pm. Well played gentlemen!
For a foray into Landline’s musical universe, stream “After the Money” below. You can pre-order the album on Bandcamp.
Landline Tour Dates
Nov. 1 – Montreal, QC – Dièse Onze Jazz Club
Nov. 2 – Montreal, QC – Dièse Onze Jazz Club
Nov. 3 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Conservatory of Music (with artists from Barnard College)
Nov. 6 – Toronto, ON – The Rex
Nov. 7 – Toronto, ON – The Rex
Nov. 8 – Edmonton, AB – The Yardbird Suite
Nov. 9 – Calgary, AB – YYC Jazz Festival
Landline, the self-titled debut album by the collective of saxophonist Chet Doxas, bassist Zack Lober, pianist Jacob Sacks and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza drops November 1st on the Loyal Label.
Photo by Evan Shay.