On September 13th, American trombonist, composer and producer Peter Zummo releases his latest album, Deep Drive, on new Tin Angel Records imprint Unheard Of Hope. Coming from the interdisciplinary avant-garde of New York City’s downtown scene, Zummo’s work over the years with Arthur Russell, Love of Life orchestra, Downtown Ensemble, Flying Hearts, and Lounge Lizards saw him create a style that he wryly termed “minimalism plus a whole lot more.” Across the five tracks of Deep Drive, Zummo refines the work he describes as “composition of and for ensemble” with five, very different musicians.
Along with old friends bassist Ernie Brooks and percussionist Bill Ruyle, Zummo plays with three new collaborators on Deep Drive: turntablist Keith McIvor (aka JD Twitch of Optimo), electronic producer and trombonist Ralph Cumbers (aka Bass Clef), and cellist Oliver Coates; a sextet merging Zummo’s “open form” composition and performance techniques with electronic and live instrumentation, vocal processing, collage and spoken word.
The music of Deep Drive was recorded in 2014, when Zummo led a UK tour with the aim of bringing three American and three British musicians together for the first time. The group performed four consecutive shows in October 2014 – at London’s Cafe Oto, Edinburgh’s Summerhall, Coventry’s The Tin, and Bristol’s Cube Cinema. Immediately after the tour, the group spent one Sunday at London’s Strongroom recording studio in order to document the tour’s work and mood.
Side A, the 14-minute long “Prepare For Docking,” was recorded at Strongroom and features vocals by Arthur Russell collaborator Joyce Leigh Bowden; Side B has four tracks, two from Strongroom (“Actual Serpentine” and “Actual Serpentine Reprise”) and two from the Café Oto performance (“Deep Drone” and “Leapfrog A Local”), which were selectively edited and mixed by Zummo. In concept and practise, Deep Drive is a series of field recordings and snapshots, and of Zummo's melodic and rhythmic challenges to the group.
These challenges focus on ensemble improvisations, based on long tone rows of chromatic pitches: “Deep Drone” works around 12 tones, “Prepare For Docking” around 7 tones. Moving forward and backward through the row, one note at a time, the players create retrograde repetitions and map out new patterns, zoning in to zone out. “We can improvise freely,” says Zummo, “but it’s more interesting to have a composition, written in traditional notation, which people can render in real time. It’s unfolding. We don’t know ahead of time what it’s going to sound like, but it has identity.”
The identity of Deep Drive comes in large part from the way Zummo moves through the world. Using his smartphone, he records daily fragments: of daydreams and conversations, signage and slogans, moments that that strike him as insightful, odd, amusing, thereby creating a sonic collage of rhythms, melodies and voices. His deep baritone is imbued with laconic humour, and Deep Drive’s track titles riff off his messaging. “Prepare For Docking” refers to the Staten Island ferry and the spectacle of humdrum city movements, but also suggests the nautical deep or even extraterrestrial life, with otherworldliness woven deep into the sound. “It’s not a recital,” says Zummo, of this way of working, “it’s a movie.” Deep Drive, then, is an album about the totality of the artistic process, seen from a generous and honest vantage point.
released September 13, 2019
Joyce Leigh Bowden - voice on Prepare For Docking
Ernie Books - bass guitar
Oliver Coates - cello and electronics
Ralph Cumbers - electronics, trombone on Deep Drone and Leapfrog a Local
Keith McIvor - turntables
Bill Ruyle - hammered dulcimer and drums
Peter Zummo - trombone, voice, keyboards