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Greg Sinibaldi and Jesse Canterbury – Ascendant

Duration: 40:40
Format: LP and Digital Download
Edition: 250
Release Date: February 1, 2014
Cover Art: Peter Hasson

Digital Download and LP, at Bandcamp


Side A

  1. Wade
  2. Second Thoughts
  3. Two or Three Back, and Around
  4. Beside Ourselves
  5. Ugly Beauty
  6. If You Look Too Close

Side B

  1. Not Forever, Just for Now
  2. Web of Lies
  3. Hold This
  4. Dreaming in Two Million


Greg Sinibaldi – Bass Clarinet and Tenor Saxophone
Jesse Canterbury – Bass Clarinet and Clarinet


Recorded by Greg Sinibaldi and Jesse Canterbury
Mixed by Greg Sinibaldi
Mastered by Scott Colburn


On Prefecture Music’s 2013 release Ascendant, reedmen Greg Sinibaldi and Jesse Canterbury craft music of exquisite beauty in a truly unique sonic environment. An album of solos and duos mostly on bass clarinets is transformed into an other-worldly symphony thanks to the contributions of the space: the Dan Harpole Cistern, a two-million gallon cylindrical concrete tank, originally constructed as an emergency water supply for fire control for nearby Fort Worden. The 45-second reverb decay deconstructs and reshapes the duo’s sound in unpredictable and magnificent ways, creating and accentuating resonances reminiscent of Gregorian chant or pipe organ. While each instrument retains its inherent character, each is covered in shadows – heard from a distance yet at arm’s reach.


Greg Sinibaldi has established himself as one of Seattle’s most inventive musicians, embracing a diverse musical world. Whether he’s performing with his groups Goat or Burn List, playing in the metal band Uncle Pooch, or composing new chamber music, he brings forth a characteristic and unique performance each time he plays. Inspired by a wide range of music and art, Greg has developed a unique improvisational language, developing a virtuosic and rich sonic pallette.

Inspired by collaborations with many musical innovators Greg has worked and performed with Gunther Schuller, Jimmy Giuffre, Wayne Horvitz, Cuong Vu, Robert Dick, Amy Denio, John Edwards, Caroline Krabel, Bob Marsh, Matt Moran, Reuben Radding, Jesse Canterbury and many others. He has toured with many different bands and can be heard on numerous recordings including Frieze of Life’s Nuclear Frog Pond, Uncle Pooch’s Oneirophrenia and Goat’s Special Agent.

Jesse Canterbury has played new music of many varieties for years:
performances have ranged over jazz, new and old classical music, and free improvisation. He has performed on countless premieres of new works by emerging and established composers and has given concerts of some of the masterpieces of modern chamber music. As an improviser, he exhibits a wide ranging vocabulary, built on a thorough knowledge of the clarinet including the various “extended” techniques. He can be heard on a variety of recordings, highlights of which include collage/décollage, an album of chamber music for two clarinetists (with William O. Smith) and several recordings with the Tom Baker Quartet and the Tom Varner Tentet. Canterbury’s own compositions can be heard on the contrasting albums Vertigo (clarinet, cello, guitar, and trombone) and Here/Now (clarinet, piano, bass, drums). Recently moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, he performs with sfSound and Dan Plonsey’s Daniel Popsicle.


Mark Corroto, All About Jazz:
Two men, two instruments and the instant multiplication of sound is the order of the day when Greg Sinibaldi and Jesse Canterbury record inside a water cistern in Port Townsend, Washington. The two-million gallon cylindrical concrete tank delivers a 45-second reverberation that requires a purposeful application of notes by imperturbable musicians. Any other approach, and the sound will inundate and overwhelm the affair. The acoustics of the cistern dictate that the direction of the music originates in the ambient realm.

Even if there were no synthesizers or electronics, we still would have ambient musics. Years before Brian Eno and Aphex Twin conjured aural landscapes of sound via tape delays, loops, drones, and synthesizers, acoustic atmospheric music was made in the great cathedrals of Europe and even in the reverberations of caves. As ambient genres have morphed and split into sub-genres of glitch, dub, space, and minimalism, the original acoustic versions are somehow more compelling.

Sinibaldi, a saxophonist who plays in a wide spectrum of Seattle’s music scenes from free jazz to metal and Canterbury, a clarinetist with ties to avant-jazz and chamber music, both play bass clarinets here with Sinibaldi doubling on tenor saxophone and Canterbury on clarinet. The pair must be careful with noise. The opener “Wade” is awash with notes and the reverberation and disintegration of sound. The half-life of each note’s resonance is a meditation on their music-making. “Second Thought” finds clarinet fluttering around the deep tenor notes and the noisiness of “Two or Three Back and Around” deals with the harshness of the cistern’s aural environment.

The recording pares down the sound with solo pieces from each player. Sinibaldi coversThelonious Monk’s “Ugly Beauty” played as haunting dream, his tenor’s notes returning to him like an echoing organ recital. When reunited, the pair produce “Not Forever, Just for Now,” a near perfect interlacing of voices that mimic a choral work.

Monsieur Delire:
Greg Sinibaldi (bass clarinet & tenor sax) and Jesse Canterbury (bass clarinet & clarinet) perform their own compositions (and Monk’s “Ugly Beauty”) in an empty two-million-gallon cistern. The reverb is out of this world and marvelously captured. Their pieces are designed to leave a lot of room for notes to develop in this transformative space. Spellbindingly beautiful.

The Vital Weekly:
Here we have two bass clarinet players of which Greg Sinibaldi also plays tenor saxophone and Jesse Canterbury plays clarinet. Different then the The Seattle Phonographers Union, but these two men recorded their music in Dan Harpole Cistern in Port Townsend, Washington, so some of the natural reverb – a lot actually – made it to this record too. They don’t play improvised music (as such?), as each of the composition is credited to either of the players and one to Thelonius Monk. In a way we may see this as a record of modern composition, of really serious jazz music but with all that spacious stuff going on in the recording, also something of a highly atmospheric nature, something not entirely related to the musical performance itself, but the addition of the place itself. Recording the same pieces in a very dry studio would probably give an altogether different result, I would think. So, me, not always the biggest fan of modern classical or modern jazz (or a combination of both), but here, sustaining for seconds in this space adds a beautiful texture to the music. Maybe even something religious? Maybe I am taking things too far. But in some of the more introspective pieces here, there is certain a solemn feeling in the feeling. One that says ‘don’t move, don’t breath, sit down and listen’. An excellent record, that is perfect for the time of the season. Moody, atmospheric, maybe even a bit grey, or maybe a fine album to contemplate over during the christmas holidays. (FdW)

The Stash Dauber:
On Ascendant, multi-reedists Greg Sinibaldi and Jesse Canterbury perform solos and duets, mainly on bass clarinets, in the Dan Harpole Cistern in Port Townsend, WA — a favorite recording location for Prefecture artists. The performance was a conclusion to a decade-long musical partnership (Canterbury left the Seattle area a week later), as well as a marker for other transitions in Canterbury’s life (his son was born two months later, and his father died the following year). The sound is meditative and reflective, relying on long tones and the sound of harmonics. (And how refreshing it is to hear anyone play bass clarinet without referring to Eric Dolphy.) Together, the two men create stately and majestic sound sculptures that exemplify all that’s best about this label.

The Seattle Experimental Music Review:

I intended this review to be published days earlier. However, an illness that really left me out of it delayed me.


Greg Sinibaldi is the first experimental musician from Seattle I ever met. We were both artists in residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts about seven years ago. At the time, I was living in Amsterdam. At the ACA, we joined several other musicians and worked with the flute master, Robert Dick. There were also painters and poets working with other masters of their crafts. I made some great friends at this place, and when I moved to Seattle, Greg was the first person I made contact with in order to get into the music scene. In my time living in Seattle, I’ve really come to see that Greg is my favorite saxophone player in town, and probably one of my favorite alive. In Ascendant, Greg alternates between playing bass clarinet and tenor saxophone.


I actually met Jesse Canterbury in Ellensburg, Washington while I happened to be passing through in the early days of moving to the state after being in Europe. He was playing with the Tom Baker Quartet, and that was a show I found to be quite inspiring. I’ve seen Jesse play many times since then, and we’ve had the chance to play together on occasion before he moved to the San Francisco area. He’s a very fine clarinetist with a great ear and feel for improvisation as well as written music. In Ascendant, Jesse alternates between bass clarinet and clarinet..


Ascendant was recorded in the Dan Harpole cistern at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, Washington. The cistern was used while Fort Worden was an active military base and drained sometime in the 1950′s. Since then it has regularly been used to record music because it has a unique architecture and a forty-five second reverb.


Reverb is in essence, an echo. The actual physics and nature of reverb is more complex, but a succinct way to say it is that reverberation is created as sound bounces off a surface and travels back to your ears. With large spaces and a variety of surfaces, the resulting reverberation can vary greatly. Musicians have been taking advantage of their performance space and natural reverb since the beginnings of music. Cathedrals, large buildings, caves…these places all can have very interesting architectural characteristics and varying reverb times. Computer musicians often artificially emulate these sorts of spaces in order to create their synthesized reverbs. There are also hardware built devices that create reverb. These are commonly used by rock bands and in recording studios. Reverb is so vital that many recording studios keep their recording space acoustically devoid of reverb so it can be created and added to each new album that is to be recorded.


For this album review, I will give a brief review track by track and conclude with an overall review of the album.
This track has a simple melody and counterpoint that really transforms because of the space. Two bass clarinets play a melody that might not be so memorable when played in a regular concert venue, but the added reverb makes it much more interesting. I actually find the melody to be reminiscent of Percy Grainger. I’m not certain, but I assume both Greg and Jesse are familiar with his music and have played it in many concert bands. Grainger’s music is also intended to be played in concert halls with a nice reverberating space. The way this melody builds and the way the counterpoint compliments it is exquisite. With a lot of widely spaced open harmonies, this slow melody is soothing and pastoral.
Second Thoughts
Opening with a series of trills that create a wash of sound, Greg’s tenor sax seems to come out of nowhere. The saxophone tone is extraordinary. Starting lower in the register and moving higher, Greg’s instrument captures a full range of sound possibilities in this space. By playing in a style somewhere in between a classical saxophonist and a jazz saxophonist, Greg’s saxophone tone is unique and interesting. This is a fresh sound to my ears that are more familiar with hearing the saxophone in a jazz combo situation. Greg is always looking for different ways to incorporate his saxophone, and I actually don’t think I’ve ever heard him play in a traditional jazz setting.
Two or Three Back and Around
A powerful opening that can only be Jesse Canterbury and his clarinet(s). By playing two clarinets simultaneously, Jesse creates great dissonances and harmonies with himself. Harsh strong attacks with strikingly loud dynamics permeate through this track. This more than any other track sounds like a duet (trio?) between Jesse and the cistern. The use of two clarinets throughout this piece thrills me. Because they are both being played by the same player, blend and intonation is flawless between the two. The harmonies and dissonances that Jesse creates sound more like very clear multiphonics from a single instrument. With a soft ending akin to a continuous drone, this track ends leaving me with a desire for more.
Beside Ourselves
Back to duets, this time with tenor saxophone and bass clarinet. This is the first piece on the album that has a real strong sense of rhythmic drive, the two instruments compliment each other well. Both Greg and Jesse have an uncanny knack for blend so their ensemble playing is like listening to an organ with many different stops open. This track more than any other is played as a jazz standard. The driving melody is played together, and then one player plays an accompaniment part while the other plays what I assume is an improvised solo. The strong bass notes that recur really fill the recording and the space.
Ugly Beauty
Again, Greg’s sax tone is spectacular as the opening for this track. When I listen to Greg play, I hear George Garzone (one of his mentors) of course, but I also hear a strong mix of John Coltrane and Stan Getz. Of course Greg isn’t the only tenor player to be influenced by these giants of the instrument, but the effortless way he can call up their sound and influence is fascinating. This track is one that would play well in a concert hall, and it is also reminiscent of what one might hear a saxophone busker playing on the street. The reverb, which does add some nice color isn’t particularly necessary in this piece.
If You Look too Close
With an almost jolting contrast to the previous track, Greg plays a tune that reminds me more of the Berio flute sequenza than a Stan Getz inspired saxophone solo. I can picture someone playing this in a concert hall with a computer generated reverb and creating a lot of excitement from the audience. The fact that this is performed inside of a water tower only enhances the experience. Computer programmers and engineers work hard at creating reverb effects that sound this good with a live performer.
Not Forever, Just for Now
This track is a bit infamous to me. When I originally downloaded the album from Bandcamp, I ended up with a track that cut off about a minute early. After contacting Paul Kikuchi, the owner of Prefecture Music, everything got squared away and I got the complete track.
Anyway, the two bass clarinets are haunting in this piece. Greg and Jesse have a great feel for each other’s playing. In this track, some of the melodic material does seem a bit stagnant. There’s a motif of quickly running notes that gets repeated, but it feels out of place with the slower and more deliberate material. I think if these motifs would have been played more along the tempo of the other material, it wouldn’t have jumped out at me so much and drawn me out of the moment.
Web of Lies
This piece really shows off Jesse’s dynamic control. As woodwind players, it’s much easier to play loudly than it is to play softly. So Jesse’s capability to come in at a whisper and keep his dynamics low for so long before bringing up the volume highlights incredible restraint and confidence. At about the halfway mark, he really takes off and plays a cluster of loud repeated notes with the occasional accented note outside of the cluster. The high frequencies really resonate in this space and the amount of sound bouncing from the high register of the clarinet really pleases my ear.
Hold This
The open chordal sound is very Americana. Again, Jesse is playing solo clarinet and using the space and its reverb to create widely spaced and beautiful chords. This reminds me of composers like Aaron Copland (Americana), Benjamin Britten (widely spaced chords), or Erik Satie (ambient). As easy as it would be to make this album one of ambient atmospheric sound, I find it rather astounding that this is the only piece that I could even consider labeling as ambient. It’s refreshing to hear long beautiful tone as the penultimate piece on this album. If Jesse is anything like me, I think this would have been the hardest piece on the album to play because of the sparse and open nature of the composition.
Dreaming in Two Million
Finishing the track is a bass clarinet duo. Beginning in the low register of the instrument, the two clarinets really rumble in the cistern. With a very linear motion and strict one to one counterpoint, a high point is reached and the two clarinets branch out to more individual lines in the high register. The pitch material in the high register is nice, but the bass clarinet doesn’t resonate as well in this register as the clarinet or tenor saxophone do. Perhaps it’s because the contrast with the low register bass clarinet is too great. As the track and album end in the low register, the resonance comes back, but I would have liked to hear that rumble that was at the beginning of the track one more time.

Overall, this album is one of my new favorites. I have always been very impressed with Greg and Jesse and their musicianship. With such a prominent space and sound, it really should be labeled as a trio for the two woodwind players and the cistern. Greg and Jesse took this space, and instead of doing something easy like creating an album of ambient sustained sound, they really pushed the limits of sound production in the space. Certain times in the album, this experimentation isn’t particularly succesful. The bass clarinet doesn’t resonate through this space as it gets higher. Sometimes the material is unnecessary for a 45 second reverb. But with this experimentation, the listener will get a really great sense of what the capabilities of this space and some great wind players can do. The high range of the clarinet is thrilling. The tenor saxophone is astonishing and unique. The rumble that the low bass clarinets create will excite you.

In the end, I can’t recommend this album enough. If you have a turntable, you should get it on vinyl (I wish I had a turntable!). If not, you should head to bandcamp and name your own price (!) and download this album today.

Gapplegate Music Review:

Next up in Prefecture Records’ provocative series of natural ambient music is the duo of reedists Greg Sinibaldi and Jesse Canterbury and their vinyl LP Ascendant (Prefecture 010). It was recorded live in a giant cistern which had an incredibly long-enveloped echo resonance. Such an acoustic environment does not lend itself that well to any series of rapid note articulations of a chromatic sort because the sustain turns it into mud, so the two wisely avoid that kind of playing.
Other than Monk’s “Ugly Beauty” Greg and Jesse alternate compositions that have especially open and sometimes sparse soundings that allow the cistern to work its magic.

The result bears contemplation and active listening. The player-composers sound many different reed instruments alternately throughout the set, providing a wide spectrum of ambient sounds, suspended chords, unisons and a kind of organum of drone and tone, space and sound that is positively enchanting to hear.

Highly recommended!