Saxophonist Howard Lawes reviews this album for us:
You Are a Creature is the second album from young American pianist Nick Sanders. The trio has Nick Sanders on piano, Henry Fraser on bass and Connor Baker on drums. The musicians met at the New England Conservatory where Sanders studied piano under Fred Hersch and Jason Moran; Jazz Times reports “NEC’s jazz studies department is among the most acclaimed and successful in the world”; and it is a school where Sanders was able to immerse himself in both classical, (Prokofiev is a favorite), and jazz.
You Are a Creature has been produced by Sanders’ mentor, Fred Hersch thus continuing the relationship established at the New England Conservatory. The title of the album and the tracks are somewhat ambiguous, the picture on the cover shows a contortionist perhaps pointing to the fact that the music on the album is innovative and unconventional.
The first track sets the tone, entitled Let’s Start it combines pianistic devices including dissonance, syncopation and changes of rhythm that encourages the listener to take notice. Tracks two to five, Wheelchair, Red Panda, Round You Go and Room are a series of relatively tranquil pieces with the feeling of nocturnes such as those composed by Erik Satie. The pieces demonstrate a fusion of classical and jazz styles that is unusual but very accessible to both types of listener.
You Are a Creature, the title track, is much more in the bebop jazz mold with driving rhythms, dissonant harmonies and some solo playing from Connor Baker. Carol’s Kid is a thoughtful piano piece with right and left hands taking turns to provide two differing themes while Zora the Cat suggests a stalking animal that may or may not catch its prey.
Repeater features bass and percussion in leading roles with the piano picking up on short phrases in a freely improvised style until a melody evolves towards the end. The beautiful Keep on the Watch is a track that reminds the listener of classic jazz melodies and has a memorable haunting theme while Day Zombie is a slow piece that lives up to it’s title and sounds decidedly menacing.
The last track is the classic, Ornette Coleman composition The Blessing expertly re-arranged by Nick Sanders and highlights the individual skills of all the musicians as a fitting climax to a really interesting and recommended album. As has been demonstrated many times by pianists such as Amina Figarova, Zoe Rahman and Will Butterworth a classical music training provides an excellent basis for great jazz.