CD Reviews

NATHAN HUBBARD & THE SKELETON KEY ORCHESTRA: Furiously Dreaming

nathan hubbard

Right now I am so glad that Edison invented his recording machine. And I’m so glad that folks invented microphones and there are recording studios. And I’m so glad that I have my stereo machine on with Nathan Hubbard’s recently released CD, Furiously Dreaming, in the disk player and the volume turned up loud. I’m so glad because this recording is righteously one of the best things ever to hit my CD player.

Hubbard is a San Diego-based composer and percussionist who incorporates elements of free jazz, classical composition, spoken word, and poetry in his work. He is possibly the most prolific composer in San Diego, and possibly one of the most prolific anywhere today. His Encinitas and Everything After, for which he won the San Diego Music Awards in the jazz category, comprised 25 compositions and totaled over five hours of music. This double disk set, in which he employs one of his larger vehicles, the Skeleton Key Orchestra, contains more than two hours of music.

This music does for me what I want from good, challenging music. I am fully engaged as a listener from moment to moment, eager to catch the development of a motif or transition. Hubbard will often continually change and surprisingly change the orchestration of a motif in its development. Like Charles Ives, themes and motifs overlap. He will occasionally juxtapose the ordinary, such as jumbled voices that you’d hear at a party, with the unordinary, dissonance or noise for example. At times his signature drumming or percussion comes through.

There is a great deal of joy in this music, the joy of mad, obliterating creation. As well, the compositions are mature and honest. Much of what has passed for avant garde or free jazz since the sixties are from composers who are eager to impress and yet overly solicitous of their audience. (Sorry Zappa fans, I’m thinking mostly of your guy.) There is nothing of that to be found in these eight compositions.

By all means, this type of music, with its emphasis on improvisation, is best heard in a live setting, but this recording comes very close to recreating a live vibe. The quality of the recording is tops. Kudos to Steve Langdon, who performed the mastering.

Hubbard gathered a plethora of great San Diego musicians for this project, too numerous to list here. If you want an idea of who’s on the disk, just google “great San Diego musicians” and you’ll find out who the players are. Their improvisations are, across the board, solid and inspired.

This music is big, bold, unapologetic, sublime, fun, challenging, and at times way over the top. Okay, I admit that if you’re waiting for the next REO Speedwagon reunion tour, Furiously Dreaming may not be your cup of tea. Cling to your Stevie Nicks records all you want, but I give Furiously Dreaming my highest endorsement. And yes, I agree with Hubbard that Ward Baxter should have been on this disk.

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  • September 2016

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