We’re excited for our first release of 2014, “Sister Cities” from the Ocular Concern, a long-standing project of PJCE Records co-founders Andrew Oliver and Dan Duval. The album’s centerpiece is a four-movement suite for the quintet plus string trio and bandoneon inspired by the globalized world of the 21st century and based on the names of Portland’s sister cities worldwide. The album features the group’s wide ranging stylistic aesthetic, tied together by an emphasis on strong interlocking grooves, catchy melodies, and intuitive group interplay.
The four-movement suite adds violin, viola, cello and bandoneon, the traditional Argentine tango accordion to the existing instrumentation of Lee Elderton on clarinet, Andrew Oliver on electric piano, Dan Duval on electric guitar, Nathan Beck on vibes and mbira (Zimbabwean thumb piano), and Stephen Pancerev on drums. Though the instrumentation at first glance may seem intentionally bizarre, the nonet blends diverse timbres and styles into a soundscape perfectly suited to Duval and Oliver’s wide reaching compositional aesthetic. The suite opens with “Sister Cities,” a gospel-tinged tune leading to “Portland in Reverse,” featuring the strings in a reflective chamber mood before the introduciton of a Senegalese-inspired beat. “Ghost Town City Council” brings in a western twang and creepy atonal use of the mbira before resolving into the “Island Milonga” with a catchy tango feel to round it out.
The other tracks in the album feature the quintet exploring a variety of grooves from the contemporary odd meters of “The Ocular Concern” and “The Eclectic Piano” to a more Zimbabwean-styled trancey beat of “Lafayette” and the serene, chorale-like “William S. Burroughs, LET’S GO!” Throughout, Stephen Pancerev’s intuitive drumming and the interlocking blend of guitar, keyboard, and vibes lays a strong framework for strong and catchy melodic statments, minimalist textures, and Lee Elderton’s spontaneous and brilliant clarinet improvisations.
Dan Duval, electric guitar, compositions
Andrew Oliver, electric piano, compositions
Stephen Pancerev, drums
Lee Elderton, clarinet
Nathan Beck, vibraphone and mbira
“An outstanding example of the label’s pioneering platform is the captivating Sister Cities by The Ocular Concern. Featuring guitarist Dan Duval, pianist Andrew Oliver, drummer Stephen Pancerev, clarinetist Lee Elderton and vibraphonist Nathan Beck, the category-defying chamber quintet constructs and deconstructs intriguing pyramids of texture, counterpoint and harmony. It’s a worlds-within-worlds canvas. If M.C. Escher had led a band, this would be the sound of it. […] Although exacting and sometimes brainy, the Ocular Concern’s music ultimately charms with a melodic and almost innocent sense of wonder.” – Downbeat
“Sister Cities is entrancingly concocted by this Portland, OR. band led by keyboardist Andrew Oliver and guitarist Dan Duval. The primary focal point is the five-part “Sister Cities Suite,” abetted by a three-piece strings section, where the musicians frame the inspiring factors of a globalized 21st century, somehow affiliated with, or corresponding to the names of Portland’s sister cities on a worldwide basis. Regardless, the album hovers very close to masterpiece-like proportions. There is no filler material as the program seizes your attention from start to finish.” –Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz
“Portland, Oregon-based creative jazz quintet the Ocular Concern are all over the map on 2013’s Sister Cities, although not precisely where you might expect them to be. […] With their often surprising global stylistic meld, the Ocular Concern seem to celebrate the music of sister cities everywhere, discovering new places that any creative jazz fan would want to visit.” – Dave Lynch, AllMusic Guide
“The Ocular Concern is NYC gumption, imagination and chops on the other side of the country. Topped off by the discriminating songwriting tandem of Dan Duval and Andrew Oliver, Sister Cities is, sure enough, music for the Curious Listener. I’d add “discerning” and “adventurous” listeners. All these types of listeners will be richly rewarded by this record.” –Somethin’ Else Reviews