When listening to Ocean of Storms, the experimental sounds of John Cage (or Phil Lesh and Ned Lagin) come to mind, as do some of the legendary improvisational meanderings or “space jams” by the Grateful Dead.
Ocean of Storms does not focus on the kind of traditional fare that highlights rhythm, melody and vocalization. Rather, it is the work of four musicians, whose backgrounds include jazz, blues and classical playing, pushing the tonal boundaries of their instruments (in this case Henry Kaiser on harp guitar, Tania Chen on grand piano, Wadado Leo Smith on trumpet and William Winant on a host of percussion tools).
As these artists explore the outer edges of our, and perhaps their own expectations and psyches, the pieces, which take inspiration from the geography of the moon, move between moods that range from contemplative, on the opening track “Bay of Honor,” to intense, as exemplified on the final cut “Al-Kwarizimi.”
The CD includes five improvised tracks that are thought-provoking and sonically intriguing. In and of themselves the deliberately considered tones of the featured instruments arrest attention, and when taken together as a whole these performances result in the kind of avant garde recitals (minus Smith on trumpet in this example) featured here:
The cuts on Ocean are akin to soundscapes, or tone poems, which run from 11- to 14-minutes in length. Chen, Kaiser, Smith and Winant provide unique food for thought for those patient enough to take it in.
1 – Bay of Honor 11:50
2 – Sea of Crisis 13:10
3 – Lake of Time 11:12
4 – Montes Spitzbergen 12:10
5 – Al-Kwarizimi 13:57
Henry Kaiser, who elicits a variety of captivating guitar tones on the CD is the grandson of the late industrialist of the same name, a former science instructor at University of California at Berkeley, a film score composer and an avid under-ice research diver, who has spent multiple hours diving below the ice of Antartica.
Kaiser has been collaborating with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith for years, and their work includes the Yo Miles! project, which began in 1998 and is a series of tributes to Miles Davis’s 1970s electric music. Smith’s captivating work can also be heard on the release America’s National Parks (Cuneiform Records, 2016). Smith sets the tone for much of the atmosphere on Ocean, with the interplay between his trumpet and Kaiser’s guitar locking in and taking off at various points during these sonic ruminations.