Josh Zubot Strings

Collective of 3 violins, cello, bass; both Zubots, Meredith Bates, Peggy Lee, James Meger

Josh Zubot Strings
Art and Design by Lee Hutzulak

Josh Zubot Strings is collective effort with three violins up-front. Significantly, there's bass – not a string quartet with two violins, viola, and cello. The possibilities are open.

This is one of the most active and energetic albums without drums that you'll ever hear. There's so much going on, the way they weave in and out of what sounds like written parts and what sounds like free improvisation is tasteful.

The opening track is brief compared to the longest one, which we'll look at soon, but it sets the tone so well. The next two tracks are in that like contemporary-string-quartet, boundary-pushing experimental mood that's built off of little riffs and phrases, which then blow out in all directions. But there's enough jazz violin vocabulary in there for it to make sense to me. It's coming from jazz, and I think about Mingus or Charlie Hayden or other bass-led collectivist groups.

"Exploration 1" and 2, as you can imagine, are fully improvised. I'm always interested by how you end this sort of piece. It's just a feeling in the room that you know it's the right time to end, or that it could be the right time to end?

"Night Time" is one of the most intriguing tracks to me personally, built off of this single repetitive riff with what sounds like microtonal tuning above, that cuts to the heart.

The bass really makes its presence known in "Park of Chupert". James Meger is on a roll between this and Sick Boss and Superimposer and all manner of things this year. In a string quartet, you can have the cello furiously plucking quick up tempo walking bass notes. You can also have it doing strong low end chopping. But when you have bass, because the bass can do that walking, you can have both at the same time.

"Sitting Down and Chasing" feels written like a Steve Lacy tune, but I probably don't know what I'm talking about. Anyway, It has a simple, short, repetitive melody and then goes all over the place. Like, head solo's head, but with the head minimized as much as possible and the solos maximized into chaos.

"Leaf and Water" is a soundscape like closer with a harmonic drone. But of course there's also "Auger 44", which is the epic centerpiece. It has the same general structure as a lot of the other tracks with the brief recognizable melodies and then expanding into mayhem, but over a runtime that makes it feel like it's an entire movie. It has some hoedown material at the beginning, but it's definitely not Americana, which as Tyler Childers says, "ain't no part of nothin'".

And "Auger 44" gets sparse too, not all loud. It covers the full dynamic range, just like the rest of this well-produced album by master improvisers. Just don't make me try and identify which violin heard on record is which.

Full album cover art

Listen now

Josh Zubot Strings: It 5 Plank; Rapid From Gone Thy Whisp; Beach and Car; Exploration 2; Auger 44; Night Time; Exploration 1; Park of Chupert; Sitting Down and Chasing; Leaf and Water. (58:25)

Personnel: Josh Zubot, Jesse Zubot, & Meredith Bates on violins; Peggy Lee on cello; James Meger on bass.