Sonder

by Chris McCarthy

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about

"Pianist and composer Chris McCarthy is proving to be one of the most imaginative and impressive players in the New York jazz scene."-Hot House Jazz Magazine

Sonder (Red Piano Records) is a product of something truly special. The record was premiered on the evening of March 31st, 2016 at McCarthy’s senior recital, where the honed band of Carrie Furniss on voice, JK Kim on drums, Simon Willson on bass and guitarist Max Light debuted McCarthy’s Sonder suite. Every inch of the Keller Room at The New England Conservatory was filled with attentive listeners while McCarthy and the band played a continuous 45-minute set weaving through an amazing array of textures and feels. The entire audience sat in awe as song after song aimed for the gut and heartstrings, leaving many audience members in tears. Audience member Justin Salisbury said:

“That was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.”

Instead of simply playing a “killing set with bad ass jazz musicians”, as McCarthy so easily could have done, he decided to aim “straight for the heart” and give his audience the gift of accessible, yet daring and provocative improvised pop music.

In the spirit of many great jazz records, the album Sonder was recorded completely live in one take. Listening to the record, it is hard to believe that the band could nail such intricate music on their very first pass, but that is indeed how it was made. No overdubs, no second takes, just pure live music. The album was recorded at WGBH Radio Station in Boston by world class engineer Robin Moore, assisted by James Willetts. Upon listening to Sonder for the first time, one can’t help but recognize the tremendous talent and potential of this band.

From 2013-2016, it was hard to hear a show on the Boston jazz scene that didn’t include Chris McCarthy. You could find him on Fridays and Saturdays at the famed Wally’s Cafe, playing with Jason Palmer and Noah Preminger or you could find him at The Lily Pad on Monday nights, playing with jazz giants like Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, Phil Grenadier, John Lockwood and Bob Guillotti. When jazz greats like Jeff Ballard, Doug Weiss, and Dave Liebman came to Boston, McCarthy would end up on gigs with them. This real life training with some of the greatest jazz musicians alive coupled with McCarthy’s studies at New England Conservatory elevated his musicianship to an astoundingly high level.

When confronted with the task of putting together the music for his senior recital, McCarthy could have easily assembled a who’s who of the Boston jazz scene and played an excellent set with little to no rehearsal. But instead, he chose to craft an intimate, emotional, 45 minute suite out of some of the music that had been closest to his heart the past four years. These included songs like “The Empty,” a reading of American culture’s addiction to smartphones, inspired by comedy great Louis CK, “Desaparecere” a hauntingly beautiful post rock lullaby of sorts by the indie champions Deerhoof, “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is” which McCarthy discovered through the second episode of the popular show Black Mirror, and “Count On Me,” the instant classic anthemic punk song by Birthing Hips front woman Carrie Furniss.

But McCarthy had picked out a band long before he settled on the set list. On drums is the South Korean phenomenon JK Kim, one of McCarthy’s best friends and closest musical allies through their playing in Jason Palmer’s band, Simon Moullier’s Group, and more recently their duo project, JKXCM. 2017 began with a tour around the Seattle area with JKXCM, using political speeches, poetry, hip hop acapellas and spoken word to confront the Trump era head on with activism through words and brutally intense music, hinting at electronica, hip-hop, and funk, sometimes all within the same 3 minute track. A fundamental part of Sonder’s sound is the unique connection between JK and CM.

On bass is one of the hardest working musicians in Boston, Simon Willson, whose unbeatable feel and world class ears made him McCarthy’s favorite bassist to work with in Boston. Simon and Chris studied with world famous jazz drummer Billy Hart for a year prior to this recital, honing their sound as a trio every two weeks in lessons. This development of shared repertoire led to a keen understanding of each other’s playing, which was further developed by playing regularly with Jason Palmer’s band.

On guitar is Max Light. When McCarthy put on a recital at NEC in November of his freshman year, Max was playing. When McCarthy formed the band Beau D’Ver to be the NEC 2015 Jazz Honors Ensemble, Max was playing. When McCarthy joined Jason Palmer’s band at Wally’s, Max joined at the same time. Considering how rare it is for chordal instrumentalists to complement each other so well, it seemed only right that Max be the guitarist on this project, rich with rock and punk textures but still very much a jazz record in spirit.

Throughout McCarthy’s meteoric rise in the Boston jazz scene there was one constant; his Korg SV-1 keyboard. In his own words, “The SV-1 is the best stage keyboard around today, hands down. The variety of rhodes sounds on it is the best I’ve ever heard.” So on this entire record, McCarthy plays no piano, though he went to NEC for piano performance. He instead uses the lush dark tone of the Korg SV-1 Rhodes and Wurlitzer to bring out the darkness and beauty in a defining 45 minutes of music.

“I believe he has a very bright future on the jazz piano scene”
– Fred Hersch

“Chris McCarthy is one of those players everyone wants to have in their band.”
– Jerry Bergonzi

With a new record of all original material already in the works, Chris McCarthy and Sonder are clearly here to stay.

credits

released May 12, 2017

Carrie Furniss-Voice
Max Light-Guitar
Chris McCarthy-Korg SV-1
Simon Willson-Acoustic Bass
Jongkuk Kim-Drums

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about

Chris McCarthy New York

"Pianist and composer Chris McCarthy is proving to be one of the most imaginative and impressive forces on the New York jazz scene."-Hot House Jazz Magazine

Seattle bred Boston taught Brooklyn based keyboardist and composer. Two years with Jerry Bergonzi's Quintet, two years in Jason Palmer's band, first year in New York.
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Track Name: The Empty
How do I stare
At squares not aglow
Learn lack of care
Your empathy is showing

Find enough within
You don't need to face the empty

Why be alone
I'm at your thumb tips
Don't speak at all
The feeling's implied
Take time for each reply

While driving alone with no reply
Panic seeps in you're wondering why
Why have I never felt alone at all

Find enough within
In between it all
Find enough within
In between it all

Oh that is where you'll find the empty
Searching for that rush of empty
We all need to face the empty
To learn to feel at all

Learn to feel at all
Learn to feel at all
Track Name: Ugly Beauty/Rant
Rant



You cannot write a single line w/out a cosmology

a cosmogony

laid out, before all eyes

there is no part of yourself you can separate out

saying, this is memory,
this is sensation,

this is the work I care about, this is how I
make a living

it is whole, it is a whole, it always was whole

you do not “make” it so
there is nothing to integrate,
you are a presence
you are an appendage of the work, the work stems from
hangs from the heaven you create

every man / every woman carries a firmament inside 
& the stars in it are not the stars in the sky 
w/out imagination there is no memory 
w/out imagination there is no sensation
 w/out imagination there is no will, desire
history is a living weapon in yr hand
& you have imagined it, it is thus that you
“find out for yourself”
 history is the dream of what can be,
it is 
the relation between things in a continuum
of imagination
what you find out for yourself is what you select
out of an infinite sea of possibility
no one can inhabit yr world
yet it is not lonely



THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST

THE IMAGINATION

THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST 
THE IMAGINATION

THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST

THE IMAGINATION

ALL OTHER WARS ARE SUBSUMED IN IT


There is no way out of a spiritual battle

There is no way you can avoid taking sides

There is no way you can not have a poetics
no matter what you do: plumber, baker, teacher

you do it in the consciousness of making
or not making
yr world



There is no way out of the spiritual battle
the war is the war against the imagination
you can’t sign up as a conscientious objector
the war of the worlds hangs here, right now, in the balance
it is a war for this world, to keep it
a vale of soul-making
the taste in all our mouths is the taste of power
and it is bitter as death
bring yr self home to yrself, enter the garden
the guy at the gate w/ the flaming sword is yrself
the war is the war for the human imagination
and no one can fight it but you/ & no one can fight it for you


–Diane di Prima (1985)
Track Name: Anyone Who Knows What Love Is
Anyone
Anyone
Anyone
Anyone

You can blame me
Try to shame me
And still I'll care for you

You can run around
Even put me down
Still I'll be there for you

The world may think I'm foolish
They can't see you like I can
Oh but anyone who knows what love is
Will understand

I just feel so sorry
For the ones who pity me
Cause they just don't know
They don't know what happiness and love can be

I know to ever let you go
Oh is more than I could ever stand
Oh but anyone who knows what love is
Will understand
Will understand
Will understand
Will understand
Track Name: Cold Sand
Cold sand
Between my soles again
How can one hold a new amend
Sad one you stun
Stay where my eyes can't stare upon you
No you

Sold through my only claim to you
Now we have only pride to prove
If being present is ideal
Maybe presence should be real

Stay where my eyes can't stare
Upon you
No you

Stay where my eyes can't stare
Cold sand will fill the air
So stay where my eyes can't stare
Upon you
No you
Track Name: Count On Me
Crawl to me
Make me bleed
Take me down
And I'll fall forward into this

Obsessive
Fated state of love

Cover me
With your hands
Round my neck
And feel the burn of love in
This obsessive world

I don't sway very easily
You can count on me
Count on me
Say you're here
And it won't be clear
I can't count on you
Count on you
It's ok we'll just swallow everything

Mind is playing sour tricks and surely you should know that
You can't live as though it happens everyday
Run run run as fast as you can say the words
And you'll be far away

I don't sway very easily
You can count on me
Count on me
Say you're here
And it won't be clear
I can't count on you
Count on you
It's ok we'll just swallow everything