Northing, a Minnesota-based chamber group that performs improvised and composed music, is located in Minnesota. The quintet was formed in 2017 and takes its name from the cartographic term that refers to progress northward. After studying music from different parts of the country, each member of the ensemble was a composer/improviser. Two saxophones and two trombones are all that’s needed to create vibrant sounds that can be compared to a brass band or wind quartet. Aaron Hedenstrom (alto saxophone), Mara Syman (alto saxophone), Nick Syman (trombone), Josh Becker (bass trombone) and Pete James Johnson [drums]. It was difficult to write chamber music for this unusual quintet. Without a rhythm section, what does it sound like to have two trombones and two alto saxophones? They could sound like a choir. They should. Perhaps they could evoke a large band? What sounds could be discovered by adjusting individual performer’s playing-to-resting and reading-to-improvising ratios? What could be done to make each instrument more melodic or supportive? These are the foundations of compositions. Here are a few examples. Although a bass trombone is not able to do the same job as a double-bass, it can propel the feel forward with playful intensity. The crystalline colors of the trombone above the altos is a result of this web of interconnected horn ranges. Drums can change from supporting to melodic accompaniment, which requires equal and opposite reactions in the structure and arrangement of horn lines. Composed horn lines can be less restrictive for an improviser than in large groups. These moments were discovered and internalized by the group, and the joy of creating this music became its own momentum. Improvisational structures that had fewer comping restrictions and a reduced range of color and instrumental color led to a greater focus on sound and a wider variety of textural palettes. It is difficult to create music in a space that feels both freeing and challenging. It’s the joy in proposing solutions that Northing hopes people will hear. Hill Spell is our first album. It’s equal parts a compilation of the working answers to our initial questions, and a celebration of discovering them. From bandcamp

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