Composer and drummer Colin Hinton's Simulacra exists at the intersecting edge of experimental improvised music and contemporary composition. Bringing together a band of crack colleagues from the fertile Brooklyn improvised scene, including Anna Webber, Yuma Uesaka, Edward Gavitt, and Shawn Lovato, Hinton's music has absorbed influences from people with whom he has a range of degrees of separation, including mentors Ingrid Laubrock, Tyshawn Sorey, and Eric Wubbels, as well as inspirational luminaries Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, and Morton Feldman.
Brooklyn based composer and drummer Colin Hinton releases his debut full length album as a leader, “Simulacra,” on the Panoramic Imprint. Hinton is an active member of New York’s creative music community, synthesizing influences from Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, Olivier Messiaen, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Morton Feldman as well as his mentors Tyshawn Sorey, Eric Wubbels, and Ingrid Laubrock, into a style that seamlessly mixes improvised and through-composed elements. The result, heard here with a stellar cast of cutting edge performers, is dynamically spontaneous, structurally compelling, and powerfully expressive.
Opening with the album’s longest track, “Obversify,” Hinton brings us immediately into a searching space, as a gong roll ushers in a luminescent ensemble chord followed by percolating harmonics and attacks in the guitar, bass, and drums. Glockenspiel accompanies a microtonal figure in the flute and the introductory material is developed. The guitar begins a steady ostinato that leads the piece into an extended clarinet solo by Yuma Uesaka, marked by more rhythmic regularity. The spaciousness and timbral exploration is reminiscent of some of Sorey’s work with his trio and other ensembles. The texture becomes more disjunct as the tenor sax, bass, and drums engage in conversational dialogue, leading into slithery unison melodic material in the guitar and clarinet. This fluidity between written and improvised, rigorous meter and free, is characteristic of “Simulacra,” and underscores the symbiotic communication between the members of this band. Guitarist Edward Gavitt takes a frenetic distorted solo towards the end of the track, and after a sax duel, an insistent background figure comes to the forefront and forcefully closes the piece.
“Synesthopy” is a two part piece, with a short intro that explores creaking extended techniques in the bass flute and contralto clarinet, as if listening to the sounds of a dystopic playground set that has come alive after the children have gone. The main body of the piece is based on a slow moving groove over which mournful melodic fragments are passed through the ensemble. Anna Webber on bass flute and Gavitt get solo turns on this mysterious track.Read More
“What Was” is the album’s second epic piece, building its argument with glitchy ensemble mechanisms made of repetitive motives. Here Hinton’s open ear to contemporary composition influences is immediately apparent, especially the impact of his studies with Wet Ink associated composer Eric Wubbels. The irregular rhythmic structures articulated by the rhythm section provide a shifting ground over which we hear energetic solos by Webber and Uesaka. At several moments in the piece, disembodied melodies in guitar and flute suspend the music briefly in an amorphous haze. Hinton turns again to Gavitt’s distorted guitar to build intensity, as the repetitive mechanisms from the opening of the piece become ever more disjointed and chaotic.
“Breath” opens with a guitar solo in quarter tone tuning, soon joined by bass flute, cymbals, and eerie sustained chords in the bass and contralto clarinet. A short microtonal melodic fragment is played as an imitative mantra before the bass leads the band in a new idée fixe. “Breath” eschews conventional development in favor of a Feldman-esque examination of how a simple idea can change expressive hue when small components, elements of phrase ”syntax” so to speak, are subtly shifted.
“Slab Warmth” opens with material that comes closer than any of the rest of the album to being a “head,” moving quickly into a bass solo that fixates on a central pitch. The piece toggles between saxophone solos and intervening Braxton-esque unison passages before the two saxes engage in a sparring match of squeals. The closing thematic material is reminiscent of the original head, but somewhat more subdued, suggesting Hinton consciously avoided a strict reprise.
Robert Grieve sums up Hinton’s ambitious and affecting project in his liner notes: “Simulacra the record convokes in its capture an affection for the mentors, community, and the lineages within which Hinton situates himself. Singularity is that which is inexpressible, yet yearns to be expressed. It empowers affection and in-so-doing generates simulacra. It is this singularity driven affection from which this Simulacra emerges, and to which it necessarily returns.”
– D. Lippel
Colin Hinton is an active member of Brooklyn’s creative music community. A drummer, percussionist, and composer, his music draws from the jazz and free music traditions of Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, and Muhal Richard Abrams, as well as 20th century classical composers Messiaen, Scriabin, Feldman, and Grisey.
He has performed in the US, Canada, Central and South America, and Asia, and has had his compositions performed in the US, Italy, and Canada. An active educator in the NYC area, Colin has taught at the City College of New York, numerous music academies, and has many private students.
Hinton studied drums with Ed Soph, Tyshawn Sorey, Dan Weiss, Ralph Peterson, and Ari Hoenig, and composition with Ingrid Laubrock, Tyshawn Sorey, and Eric Wubbels. He studied at the University of North Texas and City College of New York, completing a BFA in Jazz Performance and an MA in Music Performance with a focus in 20th century theory.
Colin has performed with Ingrid Laubrock, Todd Neufeld, Tony Malaby, Brandon Seabrook, Michael Formanek, Okkyung Lee, Eivind Opsvik, Tyshawn Sorey, Brandon Lopez, Jacob Sacks, Briggan Krauss, Miles Okazaki, Michaël Attias, Jesse Zubot, and Anna Webber. He performed on Jake Hanlon’s 2012 CD release “Follow”, which was nominated for ECMA Jazz Recording of the Year.
Hinton currently leads contemporary classical/avant jazz quintet Simulacra and free-jazz/post-punk hybrid Glassbath.
Colin has been sober since November 3rd, 2016.https://www.colinhinton.com/
New York’s ever-vibrant creative music underground features a crop of composers—Mary Halvorson and Tyshawn Sorey foremost among them—whose heady visions have altered the landscape. On Simulacra, on-the-rise Brooklyn-based drummer/composer Colin Hinton takes his cues from Sorey, to stunning compositional and improvisatory effect. Mind-bogglingly, it’s only Hinton’s second release as bandleader; he debuted in 2018 with the self-released Glassbath.
While Sorey doesn’t appear on Simulacra, his influence looms large over the program, and, as the liner notes attest, he’s both mentor and inspiration to Hinton (specifically inspiring the piece “Breath”). Simulacra subscribes to no particular genre. It’s a 65-minute shapeshifting tour de force, indebted as much to experimental composers Morton Feldman, Alexander Scriabin, and Eric Wubbels as to avant-garde jazz maestros Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Ingrid Laubrock—all of whom Hinton points to as inspirations.
Name-dropping aside, Hinton and his fleet group comprising Anna Webber (tenor saxophone, flutes), Yuma Uesaka (tenor saxophone, clarinets), Edward Gavitt (electric and acoustic guitars), and Shawn Lovato (bass) stands on its own. With a wide sonic vocabulary and a deep instrumental arsenal (add in Hinton on percussion, glockenspiel, and gongs), Simulacra’s six densely layered marathons are free-floating, visceral, and cerebral, all at the same time.
Within Hinton’s expansive vistas lie foundations that can’t be pinpointed. “Obversify” and “What Was,” two mutating compositions that eclipse the 18-minute mark, furiously zig and zag with blitzes of harmonic beauty and gritty abstraction. Can this be filed under new music? Modern classical? Minimalism? Jazz? The answer is all of the above.
What Hinton has created will appeal to enthusiasts of Sorey’s sprawling Pillars: adventurous, forward-looking, thought-provoking music replete with splendid interplay and a dizzying array of ideas and sounds that uncover more layers with each rewarding listen.
-Brad Cohan, 1.2.20, JazzTimes
Brooklyn-based drummer and composer Colin Hinton blossoms as a serious modernist and avant-gardist with this sophomore full length album as a leader, Simulacra, a collection of six unpredictable cuts composed with specific musicians in mind. Although inspired by the talents of Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, Messiaen, and Scriabin, and with the compositional influence of former mentors (Ingrid Laubrock, Tyshawn Sorey, Eric Wubbels) pulsating through the record, Hinton reveals a distinctive, forward-thinking sound of his own, delivering pieces that burst with invention. That could be done thanks to the great quintet he put together: woodwind players Anna Webber and Yuma Uesaka share duties in the frontline, Edward Gavitt brings solid textural development and harmonic spice to the setting, and bassist Shawn Lovato joins the drummer, composing a rhythm section made of both malleable and sturdy properties.
Both What Was and the opening track, Obversify, clock in at around 18 minutes, providing intricate, never gratuitous sonic voyages that deftly combine written composition and free improvisation. In the case of the latter, a vague atmosphere is launched through sometimes durable, sometimes ephemeral cymbal splashes, sudden tom reverberation, a dancing flute over glockenspiel radiance, guitar fingerpicking and harmonics, and both pizzicato and arco bass paradoxes. A clarinet on the loose hangs around guitar chords that keep shifting at regular intervals. Short time later, it’s the tenor sax that infuses tension, pointing out to more obscure landscapes. After the engrossing clashes between tenors, Gavitt strikes with distorted phrases and noise rock blows, working on top of the fractal mechanics of a prog-rock-like groove. In turn, What Was kicks off with a lively pulsation and bold contrasting sounds. Beautifully synchronized movements morph into odd-metered cadences, exposing instrumental aggregations and diffusions, unisons and counterpoint, all within attractive atmospheres that toggle between refined and acerbic. For the ending, a sort of mechanical march is set up with multiple ostinatos in the vicinity.
Influenced by Scriabin’s 20th century classical discoveries and introduced by bass flute and contralto clarinet, Synesthopy pushes Gavitt to the foreground. He is a true catalyst for Hinton’s project (also produced the album), contributing exquisite clusters for the moody jazz variances. Following Webber’s swift flute rides and a middle collective passage, he uncorks a solo replete with rhythmic ideas and chromatic virtue.
If the restive Feldman-esque Breath feels quite mysterious throughout, opening with a strange panorama of guitar intervals and quirky chords delivered with quarter tone tuning, Slab Warmth concludes the record with an active head oozing pointed avant-garde accents. Lovato engages on Hinton’s chattering rhythms, waiting to be joined by Webber’s roughed-toned tenor and Gavitt’s fast-moving chords. Uesaka also participates with measured, deliberate placement of fierce exclamations on tenor, and the two saxophones end up crossing paths, exchanging growls and clamors that feel as sharp as razor blades.
Hinton reaches higher levels with this work, positioning himself as an able and assured composer within the left side of the contemporary jazz scene.
-Filipe Freitas, 12.10.19, JazzTrail
Included on Avant Music News' Best of 2019 Albums of the Year List
Colin Hinton, a Brooklyn-based composer and drummer/percussionist, returns to The Jazz Gallery to celebrate the release of his latest record, Simulacra. The long-form, textural calliope features Anna Webber on tenor saxophone and flutes, Yuma Uesaka on tenor saxophone and clarinets, Edward Gavitt on guitars, Shawn Lovato on bass, and Hinton himself on drums, percussion, glockenspiel, and gongs.
The compositions are dense, spiraling, and often surprisingly intimate, and clearly synthesize influences from Henry Threadgill and Anthony Braxton to Messiaen and Feldman, while leaving plenty of room for Hinton’s background in the power and structure more straight-ahead jazz. In a long phone conversation with Hinton, we learned about the composer’s approach to open material, his relationship with his ensemble, and his process behind putting the record together.
The Jazz Gallery: Loving the new record! You packed such a diverse array of sounds and approaches into a unified set of performances. It seems like the album, described in the liner notes, is addressing this timeless question: How do you capture a music moment in a way that celebrates its life force, yet acknowledges the limitations of the format? Do I have that right, in the concept of Simulacra?
Colin Hinton: In certain regards, yes. The liner notes were written by my buddy Robert Grieve, a great guitarist, composer, human based in Toronto. I contacted him, and he got excited because the album is called Simulacra, and he’s big into philosophy, so he went super deep into the whole simulacra/simulation thing. He went in on that, which I loved. I didn’t actually find out about it until after I named the album, so it’s a funny coincidence. I named the album as I did because each piece on the record is inspired by a specific musician/composer that had a huge impact on my musical and/or personal life.
I came across the word simulacra as an anagram, which is how I arrive at many of my tune titles: You see that in titles like “Obversify” or “Synesthopy.” I delved into the history of the word simulacra, and liked the idea of a representation of something, and enjoyed looking at the history of the word and how it has evolved over the last six hundred years. I let Rob go nuts with the writeup, there’s some headiness to it. I like the ambiguity, and people keep asking me about the title, so that’s fun.
TJG: I don’t know a lot about your musical process, aside from what I’ve read. It’s clear that there’s composed material: Hits, melodies, harmonic unity, form, structure, even swing and time. Then, there’s clearly improvisation as well, stuff that sounds like someone creating in the moment. I’m interested in hearing about your working process within these worlds.
CH: My background is as a straight-ahead jazz drummer. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a little away from that, though I still love listening to and playing that music. My first exposure to music outside of that was Brazilian music, then South Indian music. Then, as I was studying free improvisation and contemporary classical music, I realized that to do what I wanted to do, I needed to start composing: I didn’t start composing until I was twenty-six.
Generally, I don’t want people to be aware of what’s composed and what’s improvised in my music. There are a number of things on the record that sound improvised but are actually written, and things that sound written but are actually improvised. I’ve been working with this group for several years, and this is the fourth book of music I’ve written for us.
I’m also great friends with everyone in the band, and we’re very familiar with each others’ musicality, so that puts me at a huge advantage. I wanted to try to 1) get away from a typical head-solo-head thing, and 2) avoid long-form composition for improvisers where it’s like “Here’s written material, here’s improv, here’s a form, here’s a vamp,” and instead have the composition and improvisation move together simultaneously. That was a cool challenge to try to address. There might be three people who have written material that’s part of a composition, while one person is soloing, and another person has the option of playing composed material, or pitchless rhythmically notated stuff that they can improvise along, giving them a general sense of being part of the ensemble, where they can be the soloist. I love finding different ways of orchestrating the people I have so that something is always in motion.
TJG: When you’re generating this material, are you improvising and transcribing? Do you have a compositional procedure that you’ve found works for you?
CH: I write everything at the piano, and before I sit down and start writing a piece, I generally have an idea of what I want the piece to do. Then I might start generating some harmonic areas I want to look at, and from there it depends on whether I want melody, a non-melodic sound world, just dense harmony with nothing else… I have techniques that I’ve adopted and keep returning to, regarding how I generate harmonic material and melodies over that.
TJG: Take one track from the album, for example, and tell me a little about what you wanted it to do, and how you got there.
CH: The last track on the album, “Slab Warmth,” was inspired by Anthony Braxton, a hero of mine for years, and finding his music, along with the rest of the AACM, was a life-changing moment for me. When I started to dive into that music, a lot of things started making sense in terms of bridging gaps between a jazz, contemporary classical, and free improvisation. I heard Braxton, Muhal, Henry Threadgill, Wadada Leo Smith,, they were all doing what seemed to me to be coming from, in certain regards, a similar place, yet it was composition-heavy.
I wanted “Slab Warmth” to do a couple of things: I wanted to incorporate a couple of ideas that I heard from the 80s and 90s Braxton quartet–they would do a series of compositions called “Pulse Tracks,” and I knew I wanted to have a lot of improvisation over this idea. There are two tenor solos, Anna first and Yuma second. If you listen, Shawn and I are playing this long rhythmic cycle, nothing repeats, it’s all pitchless material that becomes the form. Anna and Ed have no harmonic material from which to work, so the prompt is: Play as free as you want, or play with these rhythms, and let’s see what happens. I wanted to structure the melodic segments in a similar fashion, where there’s this dense rhythmic counterpoint going on. It’s different each time it happens, but it all comes from the same basic material.
TJG: What does this music look like on paper? I read that you took a lot of notational ideas from John Cage, that you don’t write chord changes, that you like specific guitar voicings, things like that.
CH: On paper, it’s long. It’s all through-composed, minus the open sections, and is pretty dense. I didn’t write it to be difficult music, but because of the nature of what it is, it’s hard. I’m very lucky to have the people I have in this band that’ll put the time into learning it and playing it incredibly well.
TJG: One of the striking things about the tracks is that many of them are quite long. It’s exciting when people release long-form recordings! I know Ed edited the recordings too. Did you do a lot of long takes? Splicing? Did you record longer bits and trim them?
CH: Yes, to everything except for the last one. The only track we did in full was “Slab Warmth,” which we did in two takes. If I remember correctly, we did that one last, everyone was tired, I was totally fried. We just decided to do that one start to finish, and got it done in two takes. I’m still amazed.
We did the exceptionally long tracks like “Obversify” and “What Was” section by section, because I knew it was going to be to difficult to get the result I wanted to if we tried to do it start to finish. There’d be too much punching, having to do retakes, or I wouldn’t have been happy about how it turned out. Going into the session, I made a detailed schedule of which chunks we’d play when, and how we’d collage it together afterwards.
For me, I’m not the biggest fan of splicing. I’m conflicted: I want it to be an accurate representation of how the band performs live, but realistically, to get a studio recording like that… Studio and live recordings are two different beasts. This band can play this music live, and it’s fun, but in a documented format, since it’s so dense, I want it to sound a certain way on the record, and the only way I can get those results is recording it the way we did, which was doing it in sections.
TJG: I think everyone on the record sounds so good, particularly Anna Webber. She blows my mind.
CH: Me too, man. I can’t say enough good things about Anna. Everyone in the band… this stuff is not easy, and everyone is playing their ass off and putting in a lot of time to make it work.
TJG: There’s a lot of good conversation between Anna and Yuma as well. Have you workshopped that over the years? Does it happen organically?
CH: All of the above. I know how they play together, and I love that. Originally, this group was a trio, me, Ed and Yuma. There were a few gigs that Yuma couldn’t make and I called Anna to fill in, and it became a back-and-forth. As the group went on and I continued writing, I decided, why don’t I have both of them in there? I added a bass player, and after that group worked a bit, I thought it was super special to hear how Anna and Yuma worked together. I started to figure out ways that I could take advantage of that, giving them an intro to that tune “Synesthopy,” where it’s bass flute and contralto clarinet playing together. On “Slab Warmth,” I wanted it to be loud and rambunctious, with two tenors throughout. I thought, There needs to be a place with two tenors going ballistic, and they knocked it out of the park on that. I love listening to that, they did it so well.
TJG: Like everything recorded at The Bunker, this record sounds so good. The mastering is excellent, the editing is tight. I’m curious about the timeline from rehearsals to recording, mixing, editing, and release.
CH: I didn’t finish writing this music until a few weeks before this recording session, when we had a gig at The Jazz Gallery in September of 2018, right before we went into the studio. I was sending completed parts at the beginning of that month. I was on vacation in Canada at the time, and was waking up early every morning and working for three or four hours just finishing parts for everybody. I got back from Canada, we had two rehearsals, both of which were intense and stressful, we did the soundcheck at the Gallery, and everything came together.
From the recording onwards, I knew I needed to sit with it for a minute. Around October or November, I started talking with Ed and getting the edits together. Around December, I started mixing with Eivind Opsvik. I was working two full-time jobs at that point–on top of my private lesson studio and my gigs, I was teaching English, math, and reading at a residential treatment facility. So Eivind and I were meeting up once a week for three, four hours at a time, and that took I think two months. I think we spent twenty-six hours mixing it, potentially eight sessions.
Once it was mixed, I was looking for a mastering engineer. It was right about the time when Anna’s last record came out, and I loved the way it sounded. She recommended this guy named Brent Lambert, I believe he runs Kitchen Mastering Studio. I started looking into that, and he’s done John Hollenbeck’s albums. So I sent him an email, we got working on it, and I think the turnaround on that was about a month, and it only took a few drafts to get it right, so the whole mixing and mastering went from about November to maybe April. It was pretty involved. Again, the music is super long, super dense, and I want it to sound a certain way, which took a lot of time. From there, I started shopping it around to labels. On a whim, I sent it to New Focus, and I got an email back the next day from Dan Lippel, who seemed super interested. I went with it, and I’ve been so happy with everything they’ve done. I’m excited to have a release on that label.
Colin Hinton celebrates the release of Simulacra (New Focus) at The Jazz Gallery on Thursday, November 14, 2019. The group features Mr. Hinton on drums & percussion; Anna Webber on tenor saxophone, flute, & bass flute; Yuma Uesaka -tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, & contralto clarinet; Edward Gavitt on electric & acoustic guitars; and Shawn Lovato on bass.
-Noah Fishman, 11.12.19, Jazz Speaks
"Simulacra” was recorded by Anna Webber (tenor saxophone, flute, bass flute), Yuma Uesaka (tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, contralto clarinet), Edward Gavitt (electric and acoustic guitars), Shawn Lovato (bass) and Colin Hinton (drums, percussion, glockenspiel, gongs). A group of talented, masterful and experienced jazz masters had joined together to improvise. Their music is filled with animated splashes, dizzy glissando, moving thrills, fascinating riffs, impressive free improvisations, wild culminations, stunning passages and spontaneous changes. The musicians have a new conception of avant-garde jazz and suggestive, dynamic and expressive sound.
Independent melody line, dynamic and wide rhythmic section, gorgeous and expressive background and exclusive instrumental section – that’s the basics of “Simulacra”. The musicians manage to create a multi-layed and bright musical pattern – wide stylistic variety, innovative decisions and extended playing techniques are the main compounds of it. The music is completely based on free improvisation, avant-garde jazz and the fundaments of experimental music. Expressive bebop, extravagant post bop, steady relaxing cool, impressive free improvisations, European, American and Scandinavian avant-garde jazz streams are highly effecting whole sound. Each improviser has his own and original sound – it’s expressive, driving, inspiring and passionate. A fantastic, charming and dynamic melody line is the key of the compositions. Reeds by Anna Webber and Yuma Uesaka is the source of energy and innovative ideas gently integrated to musical pattern. Both improvisers combine together expressive melodies, vital sparkling solos, impressive spontaneous improvisations, sonoristic experiments and special effects. Soft, elegant and sweet flute is meeting emotional, thrilling and driving saxophones, deep and solemn bass flute, dynamic and dark bass and contralto clarinets. All these elements make an excellent combo of different kinds of tunes and millions of timbres. Music is changing and twisting every minute – vivid and expressive, dynamic or rigorous, frantic, angry, hysteric and growling, rough, tight, solemn, peaceful, meditative and abstract. The musical pattern is combined from different textures, colors and moods – all these elements are combined together in delightful, subtle and suggestive way. Certainly, that makes an effort to original, driving and expressive melody line. Electric and acoustic guitars are masterfully brought together. Edward Gavitt is mixing up synthetic tunes, special effects, modified timbres, sonoristic experiments of electric guitar and natural, inspiring, dynamic and thrilling riffs of acoustic guitar. Improviser manages to demonstrate wide and universal abilities of guitars of both types and create a suggestive, emotional, inspiring and original sound. Silent, ambient, dark, abandonned and sophisticated mood is effected by electric guitar – fantastic sonoristic experiments certainly make an effort to it. Gentle soft solos, elegant ornaments, transcendental passages, repetitive rhythmic series growing out to rising riffs, wild culminations and driving solos – that’s the keys of acoustic guitar which also is accompagnied by experimental ideas, inventive decisions and extended playing techniques. Deep, dark and steady bass line is against dynamic solos, impressive culminations, dizzy passages, colorful timbres, strange tunes, sonoristic experiments and contrasting pieces gently brought together – bassist Shawn Lovato surely knows the best way how to combine his own style, innovative point of view, modern conception of improvising and the will to create fresh, exciting and new sound. His music is emotional, expressive and bright. Load rolls, extremely poweful culminations, exotic gongs, exciting, moving and thrilling glockenspiel, gorgeous tunes, wide range of colorful and evocative percussion, frottings, tappings and other sounds which grow to wild culminations or suddenly calm down to meditative minimalistic samples – the drums section is rich, expressive and independent. Colin Hinton is using his creativity, masterful virtuosity and innovative point of view to create a fantastic and suggestive sound.
-Avant Scena, 11.15.19
Colin Hinton plays drums, percussion, glockenspiel and gongs as he leads an intuitive team of Anna Webber/ts-fl, Yuma Uesaka/reeds, Edward Gavitt/g and Shawn Lovato/b through six tunes ranging from a concise 3 to stretched out 18 minutes. The moods are soft and almost ambient, with gurgling clarinets and bass clarinets ruminating with Gavit on “Synesthopy” and dainty flutes floating with Webber’s tenor sax on “Obversify” Eerie guitar tones create space sounds with Hinton on “Breath” and the loose “Slab Warmth” features fragmented mixing and matching musical puzzle pieces. Mercury flowing through your fingers.
-George W. Harris, 1.9.20, Jazz Weekly
Drummer and composer Colin Hinton is a rising star on the local avant-jazz scene who takes his bold and expansive compositional and improvised music cues from 20th century classical composers and free jazz icons like Anthony Braxton, Muhal Ricard Abrams, and Henry Threadgill. On the hair-raising Simulacra (Panoramic Recordings), Hinton leads a powerhouse group made up of Anna Webber, Yuma Uesaka, Edward Gavitt, and Shawn Lovato that effortlessly delves into epic, complex, and free-floating pieces with ease.
-George Grella and Brad Cohan, 11.12.19, Brooklyn Rail
Colin Hinton has already proved himself to be a spectacular percussionist and composer, but why stop there? Simulacra is his upcoming avant-garde jazz album via New Focus Recordings, which is somewhat surprising considering they usually focus on contemporary and avant-garde classical artists. But far from complaining, I admire this addition to their roster. Simulacra is an awesome collection of works, deeply confusing and labyrinthine. Wholly recommended.
-Dave Tremblay, 9.17.19, Can This Even Be Called Music?
An experimental improviser that walks on both sides of the street brings his egghead A game on this debut springing out of the Brooklyn experimental scene with a crew of like minded in tow. Feeling like outer, outer space music where you aren’t overwhelmed by sound but by the white space that envelops it, this certainly sounds like it should be subtitled “Music for Planetariums”. Finding a sweet spot where it’s way out without being way out, get out the headphones because this is music for your head.
– Chris Spector, 10.8.19, Midwest Record
Featuring Anna Webber on tenor sax & flutes, Yuma Uesaka on tenor sax & clarinets, Edward Gavitt on electric & acoustic guitars, Shawn Lovato on bass and Colin Hinton on drums, percussion & direction. Nearly every Sunday at DMG we have free music, from 1 to 2 to 3 sets, involving varied Downtown musicians and world travelers as well. Nearly each week 1 or 2 new musicians, who I don’t recognize previously, will make their debut here. Last Sunday (1/12/20), we had a trio with Aron Nemenwirth, Dave Sewelson and a drummer named Colin Hinton. Mr. Hinton played well with that trio and left us with this disc where he is the leader. Mr. Hinton’s quintet features just one musician with whom I am previous familiar, reeds player, composer & band leader Anna Webber. Ms. Webber is a gifted composer with several fine discs out under her own name.
The first piece here, “Obversify”, is quite long and begins with skeletal fragments played with the guitar, bass & drums. The group solidifies with a written passage as the clarinetist takes a long & winding solo. Mr. Hinton does a good job of writing or directing one reed and the guitar to play these tight lines together while the other reed solos on top. At times both reeds will play their lines together while the guitarist takes a long, gnarly, ever-changing solo on his electric axe. For the intro to “Synesthopy”, both reeds plays these soft, haunting lines together to create an eerie effect, eventually the rest of the quintet come in to play more dreamy, somber, ghostlike phrased together. The other long piece here, “What Was”, is filled with several sections. Instead of having a piano to play chords and give direction, the guitarist plays crafty, complex written lines while the flute (Ms. Webber) and then the clarinet both takes long, impressive solos. One can tell that a good deal to time and work went into making this disc as each piece is filled with all sorts of twisted yet tight combinations, partially written with snippets of or longer solo rising above the impressive ever-evolving passages below. In a better, more fair world, this disc might’ve been released on the Hat Ezzthetic label while informative liner notes by Art Lange or someone similar and then tweeted about by the Hat publicity machine (only kidding). Oh well. Yet another under-recognized treasure, grab yours now.
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, 1.16.20, Downtown Music Gallery
Lovers of both jazz and contemporary (non-jazz) music should find drummer and composer Colin Hinton’s album of interest. Such ventures on the perimeter of what most understand as core jazz test catholic tastes. But if musicians make a record and send it to a jazz magazine for review one presumes that they consider it to be jazz.
Hinton’s quintet doesn’t so much have a front line as five musicians mixing everything together in free-ish, deceptively unstructured form, though Anna Webber and Yuma Uesaka do their conversational best on a range of wind instruments, including tenor saxophones, bass flute and alto clarinet. The longest track at over 18 minutes, Obversify echoes the historic jazz concerto, that hybrid forever flapping its wings before the pigeon-holes of manner and genre. Or, given the involvement of guitar, bass and percussion as employed here, it might be a concerto for small (jazz) ensemble.
Nowhere does length militate against development and sonic variety. What Was also exceeds 18 minutes and adheres to tertiary form. The first “movement” conjoins everyone in creating an electric pulse and garrulous exchanges, the second meditates on a quietly reductive focusing of the soundscape, and the third drops even further to an almost ritualistic minimalism, underscored by Hinton’s metallic percussion. Breath, the shortest track, plays around absorbingly with a repeated motif, and Slab Warmth often sidles up to the jazz modes of which it is a deconstruction.
Composers Tyshawn Sorey, Morton Feldman and the jazz musician Anthony Braxton may be credited influences, but the most interesting feature here is the mixing of categories in which the constituents can still be identified. According to Robert Grieve’s liner note, recording is “captured singularity” and to begin to describe it “reduces its intense complexity to a limited combinatoriality”. The trouble with such linguistic fuzz is its conflict with the clarity of the music. It’s clear what Hinton and company are up to, even if the results defy strict classification.
— Nigel Jarrett, 3.04.2020
Colin Hinton is a drummer, percussionist, composer, improviser, and educator living in Brooklyn, New York. Simulacra is his latest effort and contains pieces Hinton composed with specific musicians and composers in mind. For example, the mystic chord that provides the foundation for “Synesthropy” honors both Alexander Scriabin and Colin’s teacher Eric Wubbels. Similarly, the inspiration for his piece “Breath” comes from both Morton Feldman and Tyshawn Sorey. Simulacra is a set of six avant-jazz instrumentals, some listenable and others too academic to enjoy. Colin is joined by Anna Webber (tenor sax, flute, and bass flute), Yuma Uesaka (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, and contralto clarinet), Edward Gavitt (electric and acoustic guitars), and Shawn Lovato (bass) to realize and perform his compositions. The randomness of some of the pieces, such as the opening track "Obversify,” sounds more improvised than composed. Over its 18 minutes, quiet interludes evolve into loud washes of sound that ebb and flow. But this piece is too long for me and it is not an easy listen. “Synesthropy,” while still avant garde in nature, is closer to traditional jazz. The second 18-minute piece, “What Was,” is much easier to absorb with its gentle improv that has movement and compositional development. “Breath” is a gentle, slow, dissonant piece. And the album ends with another difficult to assimilate piece of avant-jazz, “Slab Warmth.” Recommended for only the truly adventurous listener.
— Henry Schneider, 10.29.2020
It would have been a shame if drummer and composer Colin Hinton's Simulacra, released in 2019, fell through the cracks. On this, his second leadership outing in the wake of Glassbath (Snake And Cornelia, 2018), he captains a crew of current and former Brooklyn-based talent in a mysterious but satisfying set. Hinton merges compositional elements with unfurling interplay which sounds guided in its cohesion, but without any evidence of the joins. As a result the six cuts evolve naturally, but without signaling their destinations, spanning numerous genres but without putting down roots in any of them.
While the liners allude to the inspiration from composers such as Alexander Scriabin and Morton Feldman, they also reference jazz-related luminaries such as Tyshawn Sorey, Ingrid Laubrock, Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams. What distinguishes that last cohort is a refusal to be pigeonholed. Hinton's writing often recalls the perplexing synthesis between charts and freedom achieved by his erstwhile teacher Laubrock's Antihouse. Nowhere more so than in the intricate unison atop a snappy beat of the final "Slab Warmth," a piece in which Hinton draws on ideas he found in Braxton's music.
Before that point, each piece comes rammed with multiple themes and events. The longest track at over 18 minutes, "Obversify" begins with an annunciatory shimmer, then delicate pointillism from Edward Gavitt's guitar and Shawn Lovato's bass, before molasses-slow long tones from the reeds of Anna Webber and Yuma Uesaka. Next Webber's coolly etched flute line heralds another crescendo and a series of incisive gestures before Uesaka takes off on a piping clarinet excursion. That's only the start. Here and throughout, written material emerges seemingly from nowhere, only to dissipate as quickly as it arrives.
Ample opportunities for individual expression arise as integral parts of the scripted frameworks, such as when Webber's fluttering and swooping flute provides one of the highlights of the lengthy angular "What Was." And not only individual. An extended Webber tenor solo becomes a bickering duet as Uesaka connects, on the opener, and on "Synesthopy (intro)" Webber's bass flute and Uesaka's bass clarinet combine once more in an a capella breathy chatter which leads to a stately progression preceding the main action.
The whole time Hinton steers, accents and colors without bombast, moving between choppy pulse, staggered grooves and punchy riffs, as the ensemble touches on jazz, chamber, rock, improv and contemporary. That all this succeeds without a hint of pastiche vouchsafes that Hinton has a clear vision, and even more importantly the flair to realize it.
— John Sharpe, 11.13.2020