Shot x Shot Let Nature Square

Shot x Shot Let Nature Square
Philly’s Shot x Shot quartet delivered a striking debut a couple years back with their self-titled disc for High Two. Recorded in a hugely reverberant church, it showed the quartet reworking gritty free-bop into grandly overarching soundscapes. Their newest disc has more conventional acoustics but the music is equally resistant to easy options. Rather than taking solos, altoist Dan Scofield and tenor player Bryan Rogers weave skeins of lines that float in the air with the serene multi-directionality of a Warne Marsh/Lee Konitz duo. Not that they ever quite spin off into abstraction, instead it’s as if they’re trying to find the inherent rhythmic qualities in melody even when they’re soft-spoken or ambiguous, just as bassist Matt Engle and drummer Dan Capecchi approach rhythm section duties as essentially melodic players. This results is an unusually fresh approach to the free-jazz quartet setup, frequently touching on unexpected territory. "Overlay,” for instance, filters the cool jazz impressionism of Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage through a tart, post-Masada sensibility, while in the through-composed "Triple Double” it’s as if the intricate metrical shifts can barely contain the piece’s forward momentum.

The free-jazz scene often favours a lot of one-off encounters, but you’ve maintained this group since 2004.
Dan Scofield: Yes, we’ve been together as a band for a long time, and that allows for an emotional element that’s really important to me. There’s a lot of music that I hear that becomes this study in complexity. The direction I’ve gone in personally is more impressionistic. And we’re able to do that because of the work we’ve put in, rehearsing twice a week for years, we’ve developed a certain connection. It can be so rewarding to trust people in that way, to feel that you can be vulnerable, and that someone is there to catch you.

What you play is rarely "energy music”; you seem to aim for something more long-range and various.
I like Down Beat’s blindfold tests, the so-called "needle drop.” It’s the same concept here: what differentiates this composition, this performance from that one? Is this just Shot x Shot noodling? And especially because there’s no harmony to centre things, it can get into this ethereal noodly sound. But it’s got this slow burn, which has this huge intensity. But it’s dangerous territory. That’s what we’re always wrestling with: how to give each composition a unique sound. It’s not really a form for virtuosic solos. That can happen but in general, it’s a collective process. (High Two)