Number Junky is a newly formed trio led by acclaimed Danish guitarist Kristian Borring and the exciting Aussie rhythm section of Zac Grafton and Peter Evans with special guest pianist Fabian Almazan on selected tracks.
The album titled ‘Earth Matters’ (out now via Cool it! Records/Symphonic Distribution) is Borring’s 6th album, but his first album leading Number Junky and since moving to Australia. It features his original compositions and modern arrangements of Charlie Parker tunes and has been so far profiled in publications including Jazz'halo, jazz-fun.de, All About Jazz, and played by Peter Slavid on the radio program ‘European Modern Jazz’.
Formed in the early days of the pandemic to explore a love of numbers and odd time signatures, the trio played once or twice a week, practicing and workshopping the music for over a year before recording. “The exploration of numbers for us really refers to time and rhythm,” Borring says. “While we play with polyrhythmic ideas what we explore in particular is the notion of complex musical meter – in the jazz world also referred to as odd-meter and mixed meter.”
Title track ‘Earth Matters’ embodies an aspect Borring strives to achieve in composition – the balancing of simplicity and complexity.
“The tune appears to be pretty straight forward with a memorable melody and apparent laid-back time feel, but from a rhythmic and harmonic perspective it is actually pretty complex,” Borring explains. “The trick is not to make these challenges obvious to the listener, which I think creates an underlying tension in what appears to be sweet little tune.”
Alongside the original compositions are two modern arrangements of ‘Segment’ and ‘Cheryl’ by Charlie Parker who Borring says continues to blow him away. “As part of my research [practice-led Doctorate about non-isochronous meter in jazz composition and improvisation at the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts where he teaches guitar] I arranged a few Parker compositions into a number of different time signatures using a specific transformation model. I probably made 25 different versions of ‘Cheryl’ and to be honest, most of them worked,” he says.
“’Segment’ was a bit more complex as I combined the arrangement model with a compositional rhythmic strategy I have been developing. As far as I know, ‘Segment’ is the only tune in a minor key that Parker wrote so it stands out a bit. I used to play it a lot in its original time signature when I released my second album ‘Urban Novel’ with British vibraphone player Jim Hart. He always tore it apart on gigs and I’m always trying to reach that benchmark.”
Cuban/American pianist Fabian Almazan is a special guest on the tracks ‘Tintin’ [a contrafact of the Miles Davis classic tune ‘Solar’ with heavily mutated harmony and going through three different keys] ‘The Elf’ and ‘Forty-Five’. Fabian happened to be in Covid exile in Perth at the time with his wife and bassist, Linda May Han Oh.
“I always like introducing guests to any session,” Borring says, “it fosters spontaneity and additional excitement in the studio and Fabian is such a powerhouse. We did a couple of different takes on ‘Tintin’ - even one where Fabian explored some prepared piano, but in the end, I selected the first take which felt the most spontaneous and has a certain directness to it.”
The album was funded in part by the Western Australian Department of Local Government, Sport, and Cultural Industries (DLGSC).