On Playtime 2050, the third release by his inventive trio, pianist/composer Nick Sanders looks to the future with a unique combination of imaginative complexity and dark humor. The album presents the latest evolution of Sanders’ singular voice which blends influences from a wide swath of jazz history with concepts from contemporary classical music and the composer’s offbeat perspective.
Once again, Sanders is joined by bassist Henry Fraser and drummer Connor Baker. Where earlier outings supplemented Sanders’ distinctive compositions with aptly-chosen pieces by such heavily influential composers as Herbie Nichols, Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman, Playtime 2050 consists entirely of originals, a diverse repertoire ranging from entirely through-composed pieces to free improvisations, solo piano meditations to raucous swing tunes, tender ballads to prepared piano explosions. “I like working with different extremes,” Sanders says. “When I reflect on the spirit of jazz or improvised music, the greatest musicians always pushed the music forward, looked in a forward direction. A lot of modern jazz is very much stuck in the past, so I’m trying to draw on my experiences and do something different.”
To set the mood, Sanders returned to the work of New Mexico-based artist Leah Saulnier, the self-described “Painting Maniac” whose painting of a sideshow contortionist also graced the cover of the trio’s last release, You Are a Creature (2014). Her unsettling “Playtime 2050,” which gave the album its name, depicts an adorable dystopia, with a young girl in pigtails and gasmasks cuddling a similarly accoutered stuffed bunny. “When I first saw the image,” Sanders recalls, “I found it really interesting and weird, not to mention starkly different from any artwork I’ve seen in the jazz world. I liked its tongue in cheek look at the state of the world today, with the silver lining being that it’s clearly about surviving.”
That notion resonated not just with Sanders’ own views on the modern socio-political reality, but with his forward-looking take on jazz. It also runs parallel to an optimistic view of the place of art in the world. No matter how dark things get, it seems to suggest, there’s always the escape of play – whether that means spending time with a favorite toy or taking the stage with close collaborators.
Representing a rich variety of moods, inspirations and approaches, Playtime 2050 feels like a culmination of the trio’s tenure together and of Sanders’ always expanding compositional palette. “I explored a lot of new territory on this album,” Sanders concludes. “This is my contribution to the idea of pushing the music forward, which I think is extremely crucial in keeping the music alive and culturally important.”
Be The First To Review This Product!
Help other Birdland Records users shop smarter by writing reviews for products you have purchased.