Home New York Report Pianist and Composer Angelica Sánchez and Nonet Explore the Nocturnal World

Pianist and Composer Angelica Sánchez and Nonet Explore the Nocturnal World

Nighttime Creatures, due October 27, 2023, via Pyroclastic Records, features Michaël Attias, Ben Goldberg, John Hébert, Thomas Heberer, Sam Ospovat, Chris Speed, Omar Tamez, and Kenny Warren.
One of the most persistently overlooked and under-recorded pianists of her generation, Angelica Sanchez… nonchalantly displays her versatility [on] fleet post-bop, fully improvised excursions, or… brooding introspection.” – Peter Margasak, The Quietus
Angelica Sánchez is a pianist of great depth and imagination.” – Richard J. Salvucci, All About Jazz
After nearly three decades in the urban wilds of New York City, pianist/composer Angelica Sánchez has spent a good part of the last year living in a secluded cabin while teaching upstate. After the sun goes down, she discovers the woods reveal another world. “The woods transform at night when the only light comes from a very thin crescent moon,” Sanchez describes. “You can’t see your hand in front of your face, but the coyotes and other animals make more noise in the dark. I realized that it was only my ears that were activated in those moments. I became fascinated by what I couldn’t see.”
That experience inspired Nighttime Creatures, Sánchez’s stunning new release due October 27, 2023, via Pyroclastic Records. The pianist’s most expansive and ambitious project to date, the album explores the brilliantly nuanced hues of the nocturnal environment with eleven new compositions and arrangements for a nonet comprising several of the leading lights of the creative music scene: Sanchez on piano, saxophonists Michaël Attias and Chris SpeedBen Goldberg on contra-alto clarinet, Thomas Heberer on quarter-tone trumpet, cornetist Kenny Warren, bassist John Hébert, drummer Sam Ospovat and guitarist Omar Tamez.
The Nonet was born of Sánchez’s love of big band music, a passion that spans the spectrum from Duke Ellington to Carla Bley to Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams. While scaled down, the ensemble on Nighttime Creatures provides a wide range of dynamic and coloristic possibilities while retaining individual voices and fluid spontaneity more possible with a small group.
“There’s less safety in numbers,” Sánchez says, sounding inspired rather than daunted by the risk. “The individual personalities were really important to me, so I tried to create space for that. There’s a lot of freedom within the music, and the musicians can choose how they want to exercise that freedom.”
The ability to navigate those choices has been honed over six years of writing, editing, rehearsing, and performing. An inventive composer and improviser acclaimed by The New York Times for “[seeking] out the lyrical heartbeat within any avant-garde storm,” Sanchez has crafted memorable encounters with such singular voices as Wadada Leo Smith, Tyshawn Sorey, Rob Mazurek, Marilyn Crispell, Billy Hart, William Parker, Paul Motian, Nicole Mitchell, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, and countless others. She brings to her Nonet a clear vision whose spectrum, like those pitch-black walks in the woods, encompasses what she can’t see.
“I know what I want, and as time goes on, I get closer to the sound in my head,” she explains. “But what I want is something that’s alive, that will change and evolve like a living thing. So my goal has been to figure out how to shape and sculpt my ideas around the elements that I can’t control.”
The stalking, darting motion of the title track captures the stealth movement of shadow-dwelling creatures, while “Cloud House” floats with a wispy evanescence. “Land Here” and “Ringleader” both coalesce out of exploratory improvisations where “Run” exults in tumultuous velocity. Sanchez pays homage to one of her chief influences with two pieces: “C.B. the Time Traveler” recognizes Carla Bley’s lifelong prescience while nodding to the concept of “chronotransduction” from her masterpiece Escalator Over the Hill, which is also obliquely referenced by “Wrong Door for Rocket Fuel.”
With “Lady of the Lavender Mist,” Sánchez luxuriates in the elegant mystery of Duke Ellington’s exotic harmonies while she expands Chilean composer Armando Carvajal’s “Tristeza” from a piano study book for children into a stark, tense peregrination. Perhaps the most integral influence on the album is the most personal; “Astral Light of Alarid” is named for the composer’s late father, Fulgencio Alarid Sanchez, to whom she dedicated the album. “I wouldn’t be a musician without my father’s overwhelmingly warm support – and his record collection,” Sanchez says. “He lit the path for me.”
Angelica Sanchez
Pianist-composer-educator Angelica Sánchez moved to New York from Arizona in 1994. She has since collaborated with such notable artists as Wadada Leo Smith, Paul Motian, Richard Davis, Jamaladeen Tacuma, Nicole Mitchell, Rob Mazurek, Tim Berne, Mario Pavone, and Ben Monder, among others. Sanchez’s debut solo album, A Little House, was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition. Her recording Wires & Moss, featuring her Quintet, was chosen as one of the best releases of 2012 in the New York City Jazz Record. The New York Times chose her most recent recording, Sparkle Beings, as one of the top ten Jazz recordings in 2022. Sanchez is currently on the faculty at Bard College.
Pyroclastic Records
Pianist-composer Kris Davis founded Pyroclastic Records in 2016. Pyroclastic empowers emerging and established artists to continue challenging conventional genre labeling within their fields by supporting artists in disseminating their work. Pyroclastic also seeks to galvanize and grow a creative community, providing opportunities, supporting diversity, and expanding the audience for noncommercial art. Its albums often feature artwork by prominent visual artists—Julian Charriére, Dike Blair, Mimi Chakarova, Jim Campbell, and Raymond Pettibon, among recent examples. 
2023 Pyroclastic projects include albums from Ingrid Laubrock, Mark Dresser, Sylvie Courvoisier and Cory Smythe, Brandon Seabrook, Kris Davis, and Angelica Sanchez.
Angelica Sanchez – Nighttime Creatures
Pyroclastic Records – PR 30 – Recorded August 21-22, 2021
Release date October 27, 2023
Tomas Peña
A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.


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