Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

January/February 2015: big dig! band

Peripheral Vision: Coherent Eclecticism

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Toronto-based quartet Peripheral Vision keeps one eye out for a wide array of diverse influences from both within jazz and outside it. Led by bassist Michael Herring and guitarist Don Scott, with saxophonist Trevor Hogg and drummer Nick Fraser, the group is a folky reimagining of the classic jazz quartet instrumentation. They successfully meld the adventurous philosophy of 60s-era jazz with new and hip concepts.

Peripheral Vision makes the avant-garde accessible. They don’t shy away from complex rhythmic motifs, but they do sustain a definite groove and drive. They have a cool, laid-back, and open vibe—owing partly to the guitar in the role of primary harmonic instrument—and they use just a little dissonance to colour the melody. They bring to mind drummer Brian Blade’s band, Fellowship, a group at the front edge of a folk-infused vision of modern jazz. So it’s no surprise that Peripheral Vision lists Fellowship’s guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel as a strong influence.

With disciplined and coherent eclecticism, Peripheral Vision also honours such greats as Wayne Shorter, Charles Mingus and Booker Little, as well as some established modern acts like David Binney and the Bad Plus. They cite many more influences, including Toronto’s vibrant indie rock scene; the lyrical, composition-based approach of Kenny Wheeler and European jazz groups; and the visceral, groove-based New York aesthetic of musicians like Dave Douglas and Kenny Werner.

Peripheral Vision has steadily gained positive attention from both critics and audiences for their performances and recordings. They have just released their third album, Sheer Tyranny of Will, which includes fresh uses of live overdubbing to create complex soundscapes and diverse textures. A particularly interesting track is “Backbone,” winner of the Galaxie Rising Star award for best composition at the Montreal Jazz Festival. It features intricate guitar and saxophone unison lines, rhythmically complex stop-time, and groovy vamps. Their live performance version of the album—Spectacle: Live!—also has similar textural manipulation, thanks to sound engineer Jean Martin.

You can hear this new work for yourself when Peripheral Vision performs on January 27 at the Centre culturel franco-manitobain, as part of Mârdi Jazz, Winnipeg’s longest-running jazz series.

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