By : Steve Bychowski
6 min read
Last year, Boston based pianist Martin Gohary booked two sessions at PBS Studios in Westwood, MA, invited some long-time collaborators to join him, and told the engineer to hit record. Nothing was planned—no arranged compositions, not even a key or tempo. Martin’s goal was to use the freedom of unrestricted improvisation to allow everyone to play from their subconscious. Over the last year, Martin has been pouring over those recordings, selecting excerpts, and arranging them into albums. A total of nine albums are planned, and five have already been released. The two most recent albums, The Boxer and Monkey Business, came out in September and October and feature Martin on piano and Erik Van Dam on saxophone.
The output of the recording sessions could have been dissonant chaos front to back (the history of free jazz is full of such examples). It could have also been hours of aimless noodling. But instead, the tracks of The Boxer and Monkey Business lead us on an engaging, sometimes harrowing, melodic and thematic journey. Martin told me: “I listen to the material over and over again until a movie starts playing in my head…. When editing my improvisations, I think like a filmmaker. Where are my scenes? What am I visualizing? After making the cuts, I started to arrange the takes in the order of how I felt they could fit into an overarching theme.”
Martin’s cinematic approach to playing and editing come across beautifully in The Boxer and Monkey Business. The album art and song titles start the journey by setting a scene for the listener’s imagination. The Boxer begins with the track “Training Montage” where Martin and Erik playfully dance around each other, tossing out melodic and rhythmic ideas for the other to react, reinterpret, and throw back. The next track “Hit Me!” takes a darker tone—the piano and sax are now taking jabs at each other; one throws a punch and the other ducks. The third and final track “Round XII” is an emotionally complex, roller-coaster of a ride through the final scenes of the match, which ends, not in a triumphant victory, but, like the album art, with a sense of uncertain contemplation. Monkey Business similarly evokes a cinematic, emotional journey. I will spare you all my tortured interpretation.
These albums offer so much to anyone willing to dive into their intricacies and surrender to the journey. With every listen I uncover new brilliant nuances in the spontaneous conversation between piano and sax that is at the core of these albums.
The Boxer and Monkey Business are available on Martin Gohary’s Bandcamp page and on major streaming services. Be on the lookout for the next four albums in the series, and if you are in the NYC area, check out Martin’s next performance on November 17th at JACK in Brooklyn as part of the Radical Acts Festival.
Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #152 November 2022
Check out all the art and columns of November's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass