Chris Anderson- trombone
Chris Coles-alto sax, tenor sax, vocoder
Brad Wagner- soprano sax, tenor sax, bass clarinet
Theron Brown- keys, melodica
Order physical or digital copies at https://danbruce.bandcamp.com/
The Bop Stop 2.2.2019
A powerhouse group including some of the Midwest’s finest improvisers, :beta collective is a modern jazz ensemble that performs all original compositions. Led by guitarist and composer Dan Bruce, who has been called “a lyrical musician with a thoroughly modern bent, based on a firm grasp of the tradition” (bassist Lynn Seaton), the group includes Chris Anderson (trombone), Chris Coles (alto and tenor sax, vocoder), Brad Wagner (soprano and tenor sax, bass clarinet), Will Wedmedyk (vibraphone), Aidan Plank (bass), and Anthony Taddeo (drums, percussion). He composes with these players in mind, knowing that they will bring a level of risk, immediacy, and spontaneity that goes well beyond the written page. The members' unique musical identities combine to form a powerful and unmistakable group sound. The ensemble is known for its compositional breadth, as well as interactive and highly energetic performances. A hallmark of the compositions is the interaction between thoroughly composed music and free improvisation, much of it set to expansive and driving grooves.
Bruce first formed the group in 2015 while living in Chicago. They performed at many of the city’s top venues, and released their debut album, Earthshine, in 2017. That same year Bruce relocated to Cleveland, Ohio. The group continued to perform throughout the Midwest, with a lineup that included musicians from both Chicago and Northeast Ohio. In 2018 they went on a very successful Midwest tour in support of the debut album, with performances in Chicago, South Bend, Detroit, Cleveland, Akron, Dayton, and Kent, as well as a number of performances and master classes at area colleges. The ensemble was a featured performer at the Rubber City Jazz Festival in Akron, Ohio, and has continued to perform throughout the Midwest. They have been profiled on WDCB 90.9 FM Chicago, WCPN 90.3 FM Cleveland, WYSO 91.3 FM Yellow Springs, Coolcleveland.com, Chicago Jazz Magazine, and in The South Bend Tribune.
The new lineup of the group features some of Northeast Ohio’s top musicians. In addition to playing guitar and composing, Bruce has also programmed electronic parts in Ableton Live to act as an auxiliary texture during performances. He introduced the new group to a packed house at The Bop Stop in Cleveland this February, premiering four new works.
By embracing the influence of his heroes from the jazz tradition and retaining his own musical personality, guitarist Dan Bruce has developed a unique and impressive musical voice. A recent transplant to Ohio after spending a decade as an important member of Chicago’s vibrant jazz scene, he is active throughout the United States as a performer, recording artist, composer and educator.
Bruce has performed on more than twenty-five albums as a sideman, and has worked with a number of eminent musicians including Seamus Blake, Ali Jackson, Dan Wall, Lynn Seaton, Marvin Stamm, The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, Daniel Lippel, Michael League (Snarky Puppy), Rose Colella, and Marquis Hill. His first album, A Single Thread, was released to critical acclaim. Martin Gladu of allaboutjazz.com wrote, “A Single Thread combines his learned guitar work, which is at times reminiscent of Ben Monder, with substantive yet airy, contemporary sounding compositions”, and Chuck Vecoli of jazzreview.com called it “A brilliant first effort”. Bruce’s much-anticipated second album, Earthshine, came out in 2017 on the Ears and Eyes label.
Bruce’s groups have been featured in The Chi-Town Jazz Festival, The Chicago Composers Collective series at the Green Mill, The Chicago Cultural Center Chamber Music Series, The Jazz Institute of Chicago NextGen Jazz Series, South by Southwest, The Toledo Jazz Festival, The Rubber City Jazz Festival, The Ohio City Summer Festival, Ideastream on WCPN 90.3 FM Cleveland and a special live radio broadcast on WDCB 91.9 FM Chicago.
“…a skilled, seasoned player, one capable of filling the space left by an accompanying
harmonic instrument with aplomb and finesse.”
-Martin Gladu, allaboutjazz.com
"Daniel Bruce is without a doubt one of the finest of today’s young jazz guitarists. He
plays with great creativity, soul and intelligence.”
-William Piburn, Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine
Earthshine, the debut album
Dan Bruce’s :beta collective steps into the spotlight with their debut album, Earthshine. Bruce describes the new album as “a tone poem on order and chaos, and the acceptance of both in the moment.” He goes on to explain, “It is a patchwork of moods and textures, underpinned by an overwhelming feeling of joy and gratitude”. A hallmark of the compositions is the interaction between highly composed music and free improvisation, much of it set to expansive and driving grooves.
Bruce has been a mainstay in the Chicago jazz scene for the past decade, and has been on an impressive number of releases as a sideman. His first album as a leader, A Single Thread (2007), was released to critical acclaim. Martin Gladu of allaboutjazz.com explains that the album “…combines his learned guitar work, which is at times reminiscent of Ben Monder, with substantive yet airy, contemporary sounding compositions.” This much-anticipated follow up album signals an exciting new chapter in Bruce’s career as a writer and guitarist.
The term earthshine refers to the glow caused by sunlight reflected off the earth, especially on the darker portion of a crescent moon. Bruce explains, “For me, looking up at the moon once a day is an easy way to remember my place, and to stay grounded and in the moment. I am deeply grateful to be a part of this experiment, and the more mindful I am of that the deeper my experience. While I continue to work on a better understanding, I also try to embrace the role of chaos in the world and in my life. This line of thinking bares a striking resemblance to performing improvised music. I am always striving to be present in the moment and doing my best to navigate the music in an orderly way. At the same time, when it is going well I am able to let in some of the chaos and see what happens. So when I am fortunate to make music with people on the level of this group, I can just tell myself ‘look up and remember you are not in control’.”
From the outset the title track invokes the feeling, which Bruce refers to as a spiritual experience, of standing alone in a vast open landscape. “I’ve been lucky to experience a number of breathtaking places on Earth, whether in Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, Africa, Canada, or the American West. Standing in these places I am always deeply impacted by the dual feelings of insignificance and joyous gratitude.” In the piece, meandering melodic phrases overlap into each other, masking cadences and creating a feeling of searching and longing. This builds and eventually culminates in a meditative rhythmic vamp with traces of Arabic traditional music.
“Ice no.2” is dedicated to the artwork of Gerhard Richter. His series of four paintings titled Ice is in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Bruce explains, “When I first sat in the room with these paintings I was brought to tears. Richter uses layers and motion in the paintings to give us glimpses of vibrant colors coming through the top layer of stillness and cold. For me, the pairing of the nylon string guitar and Fender Rhodes achieves a similar effect. The two instruments have very different timbres, but go together beautifully.” Bruce’s guitar sets the tone in this piece with a repeated rhythmic motive, and Clearfield’s casual melody line breaks through that texture.
Not every piece has such a profound back-story. “Sofa” is a haunting track that invokes a trance-like, semi-conscious, lethargic state of being and is dedicated to a wonderful couch that Dan and his wife once owned.
Bruce approaches this group as a composer first and guitarist second. The pieces are written to utilize the various textures available within the sextet instrumentation, and a number of the pieces were written to highlight specific group members. You will hear a good deal of his guitar playing on the album, but as he describes it, “the number one priority is the overall group sound. My goal as a composer is to get out of my own way and see what happens. I am constantly asking myself ‘what does this piece need?’ I try to take myself out of the driver's seat in a sense.” With this compositional approach and the incredible lineup, Earthshine achieves a staggering range of texture and impressive variety of orchestration, while maintaining a steady and relatable lyricism throughout.
Released on ears&eyes Records