RMI Records is excited to announce the release of In Pursuit of Morning, Matt Forker’s recorded debut. This energizing, eclectic, jazz-infused album establishes the young guitarist, composer, and bandleader as a strong force in creative improvised music.
A graduate New York’s LaGuardia High School, Matt Forker solidified his musical training and conception as a student at Wesleyan University, including guitar studies with Tony Lombardozzi, straight-ahead jazz ensemble work with Noah Baerman, and a variety of contemporary compositional and improvisational practices with MacArthur fellow Tyshawn Sorey. His work with Sorey inspired the latter to volunteer to play drums on this recording, while also mentoring Forker through much of the compositional process. Baerman, meanwhile, offered to co-produce the album and release it on the label he founded. Baerman says, “once in a while you encounter a young musician with the mixture of creativity and work ethic that makes it clear they are going places. Matt was and is one of those young musicians, and this album demonstrates that he is ahead of schedule.” After graduating, Forker was accepted to the Banff Centre’s International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, where his Canadian residency allowed him to deepen his concept and his community, while studying with Vijay Iyer, Liberty Ellman, Amir ElSaffar, and Okkyung Lee. He has since returned to New York, where he performs and teaches.
The music heard on In Pursuit of Morning was recorded in a single day at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, CT. The potent ensemble he assembled draws from different cross-sections of his musical life to date. Trumpeter David Acevedo and trombonist Abdulrahman Amer were Forker’s LaGuardia classmates, while his Wesleyan years are represented by his classmates Josh Davidoff on clarinet and Jonah Wolfson as the second drummer, alongside Sorey. Violinist Fung Chern Hwei and bassist Lisa Hoppe, meanwhile, are newer collaborators from his professional activities in New York. Together, they make a cogent and spirited unit while tackling his intricate compositions, developed over a two year span, that in turn reflect an eclectic mix of influences, from cutting-edge jazz composer/performers like Charles Mingus, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Henry Threadgill to visionaries of 20th century Western classical music like Stravinsky and Berg.
The album opens with two nature-inspired compositions that also showcase some of Forker’s range as a guitarist. His sonic portrait of the Sonoran Desert, the strident, contrapuntal “Red Willow,” features some rhythmically jagged fretwork evocative of Miles Okazaki, before moving on to fuzz-toned playing on the lush yet grooving “Malachite Sky,” written in the aftermath of a tornado. The pieces defy pigeonholing, as with the exciting moments in the otherwise plaintive and bluesy “Coiled Smoke” and the angular yet funky “Flood Plains/Fault Lines.” The moody, through-composed title track at once evokes Xenakis and the AACM. Composed only a month prior to the session, it serves as something of an anchor before the album wraps up with “Under Citrus Hill,” a tune that has some of the album’s hardest-swinging moments and some of its most furious dissonance. All of the band members have moments to shine on the album, both as featured soloists and within the ensemble’s interactions, which can be heard most notably on the epic group improvisations in “From Withered Summit.”
These sessions also reflect Forker’s interest in ideas surrounding the intersections of musical performance and ritual, and the lingering impacts of an artist’s connection with an audience. Forker understands the act of music-making to be inherently a collaborative ritual that harnesses “the ecstatic difference in time and space within the borders of a moment of creation to achieve a holiness—where holiness means presence and community, healing and rejuvenation—that clings to the participant when they exit the marked and elevated space where creation has taken place.” In the first of what will surely be many musical offerings, Matt Forker lays significant groundwork here for having precisely this impact with his music.