|Reviews of Things Behind the Sun
On his fifth album, Durant creates a marvelous pastiche of the tones and textures explored on his previous recordings, while generally framing them in more harmonically complex structures. Accompanied by upright electric bassist Tony Levin and drummer Vinny Sabatino (with woodwind player Joe Cunningham on one track), Durant lays down gentle, but compelling chord sequences and polyrhythmic “mallet” patternsplayed on a guitar synth and processed with a Lexicon Vortexover which he plays melodies and solos. The beautifully rich and warm guitar toneswhether clean and jazzy-sounding or highly saturated with distortionprovide the emotional impetus for the compositions, enhanced by atmospheric “cloud” guitars and other ambient touches. Highlights include “They Left by the Water,” on which Durant’s guitar follows the microtonal inflections of Cunningham’s “frula” lines; and the “duduk” guitar-synth solo on “Labyrinth of the World.” Alchemy. Barry Cleveland, Guitar Player Magazine
Abandoning, for the most part, his more ambient-like textural side, electric guitarist Jon Durant, joined by drummer Vinny Sabatino and upright bassist Ton Levin, has gone for the virtual jugular with a more muscular and jazz/rock fusion approach in both melody and rhythm on Things Behind The Sun. Filled with a combination of blistering leads (such as on the fiery opener "Last Night It Rained") and more restrained yet still powerful approach (such as on "Dangerous Territory" which also contains some of Durant's always delicious cloud guitar, weaving wispy clouds of electric ambience). On all seven tracks on the CD, Durant is, as usual, more than happy to step aside and allow his accompanists to share in the limelight at times. However, this is still the most straightforward "guitar" recording I have ever heard from the artist. There are tasty blues-jazz licks on "Dangerous Territory," delightful and haunting world fusion (courtesy of "vortex mallets" and "duduk guitar") on "Labyrinth of the World" that builds into a rollicking combination of pulsing beats, trap kit drumming, and soaring leads, counterbalanced by the expressive, plaintive and exotic sound of the "duduk" (a "real" duduk is an Armenian wooden wind instrument with a rich warm sound).
Much like Brian Eno's watershed Music for Airports this is a disc that paints pensive aural pictures with space, minimalism and billowy dreamscapes. While each of the seven compositions has its own shape and focus, there's a pervasive thread of peace and tranquility running between them.
Described as minimalist guitar music, Things Behind The Sun, the fifth solo album from Jon Durant is actually a soaring progressive masterpiece of full blown symphonic guitar excursions. Assisted by the great Tony Levin (electric upright bass) and Vinnie Sabatino (drums), Durant achieves a stellar mix of jazzy rock and ECM style musical moods on Things Behind The Sun. Recorded in between Durant’s production and film score work, Things Behind The Sun offers a superbly recorded round of futuristic, groundbreaking guitar techniques with Durant masterfully performing on guitars, cloud guitar, duduk guitar and guitar synth. An artist currently being produced by Jon Durant, his his older brother Kingsley Durant, recorded and released his 2004 CD Away From The Water on Alchemy Records. Compared to Jon Durant’s electronic soundscapes, Kingsley’s Away From The Water favors acoustic guitar instrumentals (with the occasional vocal and electric guitar) in the spirit of Michael Hedges, Pat Metheny and Eric Johnson, who Durant covers on “When The Sun Meets The Sky”. With assistance from Jon Durant, Vinny Sabatino and Viktor Krauss on acoustic bass Away From The Water is a most atmospheric acoustic guitar sojourn. Robert Silverstein, 20th Century Guitar, MWE3.com
Reviews of Brief Light
Listen to Jon Durant’s latest album, Brief Light, and you might think its collection of richly textured soundscapes was created by means of artful layering of keyboards, Then you realize that the dominant instrument here is actually guitar. This is guitar as paintbrush; by employing a unique arsenal of instruments, including electric guitar, cloud guitar and filter guitar, over loops and repetitive rhythms, Durant has crafted a series of impressionistic aural paintings. Several highly regarded collaborators, including bass and stick master Tony Levin, percussionist Vinny Sabatino, pianist Michael Whalen, and renowned guitar-synthesizer player Randy Roos are on board to provide further coloration to the sonic palette.
JON DURANT: Brief Light
Durant specializes in creating wonderfully evocative, pastoral pieces that will appeal to fans of Michael Brook, Robert Fripp and David Torn (the latter having also mastered this CD). But Durant also brings to mind Patrick O'Hearn (_Rosemary_) and Group 87 (_River_), similar acts who have infused very textural streams with their rhythmic imagination.
Helped out primarily by Tony Levin on (bass or stick), Michael Whalen (piano), Vinny Sabatino (drums and percussion) and Randy Roos (guitar synthesis, on the final track), Durant takes a zen-like approach to his music, showing what is NOT played is almost as important as what is.
Where other musicians play musical bars, Durant plays isobars -- stretching sustained notes into the stratosphere, letting the music fall like rain on hot steaming pavement. It's a joy to behold.
Mark Newman, Progressions Magazine
Textural music has a wide embrace. For Jon Durant, guitarist and owner of the Cohasset-based Alchemy label, it’s often a swirl of sonic pastels that blends new age’s passive melodicism with the rhythmic anarchy of King Crimson and the slow evolutionary nature of Brian Eno.
For his latest album, Brief Light, guitarist Jon Durant brought in some heavyweight talent: bassist Tony Levin, pianist Michael Whalen, drummer/percussionist Vinnie Sabatino and fellow guitarist Randy Roos. It would be hard to imagine these extremely talented artists getting together and making a bad album. And guess what? They didn't. Brief Light is the best music Jon Durant's ever recorded. In addition, some tracks introduce some interesting new wrinkles in Jon's composing abilities, as well as reinforcing his impressive command of the instrument he calls "cloud guitar."
This is a fairly interesting CD by guitarist Jon Durant and several guests (most notably, Tony Levin) playing what could be described as ambient tribal music and sometimes just ambient music. The music reminds me a lot of a more laid-back Brian Eno circa Another Green World, both in composition and Durant's use of distinct guitar textures called "cloud guitar" and "filter guitar." Some of the ambient tribal-type moments of 80's Crimson are a good reference point, too.
Reviews of Anatomy of a Wish
Cloud guitarist Jon Durant sheds some of the electronic effects he's known for on his new disc. But even though it finds him favoring cleaner, more traditional guitar sounds, his compositional approach remains anything but. Durant remains committed to letting listeners make the connections between his genre-proof pieces that treat rock, fusion, ambient end electronic influences as mere pastels on a larger conceptual canvas. The all-instrumental effort focuses on space-whether between notes, sounds, atmospheres or interplay with collaborators including bassists Tony Levin and Michael Manring, and percussionist Vinny Sabatino. The 12 minute plus "Minaret" is a highlight that displays the interactive, improvisational vocabulary Durant has built up with Sabatino and Levin. During the mini-epic, the three play off each other with pulsing energy that slowly builds up into some impressive crescendos. It's one of the most interesting pieces Durant's created to date and is worth the price of admission alone. Like his previous efforts, Anatomy isn't about pretense or grandstanding. It's about emotional purpose and outcome. "Opening The Blue Box" is an example of that philosophy in action. It showcases Durant at his most aggressive, with hard-edged, blazing fretwork that reminds listeners of just how nasty he can get when required by his muse.
Jon Durant is at it again. The self-proclaimed practitioner of "cloud guitar" has recorded a great follow-up to his earlier album, Silent Extinction Beyond the Zero. Once again, he has combined swirling dark ambient guitars with more firey passages to produce a release of beauty and menace. He is joined by a stellar cast of accompanists, in particular, Vinny Sabatino on drums and percussion. Vinny's hand percussion on the album opener, "Stretching the Night Sky" is fantastic! Also on hand are Tony Levin on bass and Chapman Stick, and the omnipresent Michael Manring (when does this guy sleep?) on fretless bass on one cut.
Jon's music is always about subtlety, and as such, should be listened to intently. This is not ambient music, despite the lack of traditional pop or melodic structure. On "Driving North," Manring is immediately identifiable, but once again, it's Sabatino's exotic hand percussion that anchors the song in deep ambient territory. When Jon's sparing lead lines enter the song, everybody starts simmering away, as the song paints a languid sonic picture.
The short "What Mattered Once" is an all-too-brief (at two minutes) mood piece and leads into "Sirocco," an album high point (which is relatively speaking since the whole album is great). Tribal rhythms spiral tightly around Jon's wonderful liquid guitar as the song stretches out deliciously. Crowing the midpoint of the album is the almost-thirteen minute "Minaret." The guitar cries out, the percussion beats out sensual polyrhythms, and the bass anchors it all, churning away in the background. It's just a killer song--no two ways about it.
Featuring everything from a gentle drifting cut ("Anatomy of a Wish"), to crunchy guitar ("Opening the Blue Box"_ to the album closer, a tragically beautiful song called "The Day that Never Was" (think Tim Story on guitar), Jon Durant shows again the he is possessed of both chops and brains. Quite a lethal combination. Highly recommended.
Anatomy is a surprisingly quiet disc, given the heavyweight talent involved. Durant is credited with "abusing" not only standard guitars, but Cloud Guitars, E-bow and harmonic bow, while Tony Levin applies muscle to Stick, bass, and electric Upright Bass. (Michael Manring, no slouch himself in the low-end department, contributes fretless bass to one track, "Driving North.") And Vinny Sabatino all but steals the show with his wonderfully centered, evocative percussion parts.
The disc is immediately very calming; soft cloud guitars over tabla and bowed bass set up a Durant guitar solo, with Fripp-like sustain. Ghost trails of delay, with Sabatino's tabla sounding like udu drums in their sharp, liquid resonance, decorate the track with Manring, while "Imminence" (good headphone piece) has shimmering cloud guitar chords, reminiscent of Greek synthesist Iasos, but darker.
This segues into "What Mattered Once," where Levin's bass establishes an ostinato, with gentle bells and gongs. There's also a Jon Hessell feel to tracks like "Sirocco," where dark clouds hover on the horizon, over what sounds like a drum set played like tabla.
The longest piece (at 12:43), "Minaret," has an edgy guitar solo, with phantom trails of sound burnt into the atmosphere in all directions. Durant's guitar at one point sounds like a long wire recoiling at high speed. The very attractive sound mix of this cut comes to a head around the eight minute mark, where the massed sounds recede into the distance, allowing the bass and percussion to gain the foreground. Durant's lines swirl and lie down to rest in the track's final minutes.
If you have a taste for music that explores the dark regions, and even find comfort in such areas, Anatomy Of A Wish comes highly recommended.
This disc’s spacious low-end work won’t send you to the woodshedbut it demonstrates creative and unexpected approaches to supporting harmonically outside material like guitarist Durant’s. Levin and Manring create hypnotic moods that perfectly complement the ethnic-percussion-heavy grooves, bringing to mind a terrific Peter Gabriel soundtrack that never was.
-Karl Coryat, Bass Player Magazine.
Reviews of Silent Extinction Beyond The Zero
Jon Durant goes far to prove that ambient music is not the warm milk bath that new-agers want to restrict the genre to. Silent features layer upon crafted layer of guitar colors, gritty-distorted and clean, augmented by keening whammy machinations, frenetic flights of virtuosity, and icy effect treatments. All elements combine to a music that is essentially "ambient" for lack of a better term, but could better be described as "progressively textural" under the guitarist's skilled sensibilities. Durant's guitar brushwork is limited to largely amelodic and atmospheric strokes, truncated gestures and flatlined linear contours, but his atmospheres remain more distilled and bracing than the cloyingly soporific and narcotic moods of new age. It may not be pretty, but it's often starkly beautiful. As a bonus, bass/Stick virtuoso Tony Levin appears on two tracks.
Mega-processed ambient washes and serpentine melodies emanating from the King Crimson/David Torn quadrant (no surprise, since Tony Levin appears on a couple cuts and Torn mixed the disc). But Durant is his own man--one with fresh signal processing ideas and wicked E-Bow technique.
-Joe Gore, Guitar Player Magazine
Though many mainstream listeners will find the work somewhat remote, more adventurous folks will find Jon Durant's Silent Extinction Beyond the Zero (Alchemy ALCD 1012; 54:03) an endlessly interesting, rich sonic cycle in the tradition of art rockers like Peter Gabriel and Laurie Anderson, and craftsmen of the eerie Angelo Badalamenti school. The album opens with an elemental, sonic meditation recalling Gabriel's "Passion" - "Crossing Zero," packed with tribal drums, dark chords and guitar effects that cry out and scream. Durant's pieces are built on moods and dynamics - alternately jarring and absorbing. Where "Tears Trickle Down" is visually evocative and mellow with its singing bass, "Clutching Razors" has a dark, foreboding rock beat and feel. Durant executes mini-epics like the twisting, multi-faceted "Three Things No One Knew" on guitar, as well as self-described "ugly bass" and "sonic mayhem" - listen and you'll understand what he means. The effect is a searching song cycle, which though more textural than melodic, will prove ultimately uplifting for those willing to stick with it.
-Hillarie Gray, JazzTimes Magazine
As the brains and braun behind Alchemy Records, guitarist Jon Durant has been responsible for releasing a wide variety of genre-blurring music. It's clear working directly with Alchemy artists and cohorts as diverse as David Torn, Gary Willis, Leni Stern and Robbie Aceto has influenced his own sound. Silent Extinction is an expansive and mature effort that proudly spits in the eye of conformity - such is the luxury of having your own label. The disc finds Durant's liquid guitar flowing across a wide variety of sonic realms including ambient planes, sandpapered surfaces and stormy shores. Along for the ride are uberbassist Tony Levin and drummer Vinny Sabatino who infuse several tracks with their virtuoso rhythm thing. But more impressive is the fact that the remaining cuts find Durant flying solo in multi-instrumentalist mode. They're no less intriguing and spirited than the ensemble pieces and blend seamlessly and cohesively with the rest of the disc.
-Anil Prasad, Innerviews
Cool, very cool. If you like David Torn, Michael Brook, Robert Fripp, Tony Levin, Eno, Steve Tibbetts, Steve Hackett each at their infinite guitar, textural guitar, "cloud guitar", guitar soundscaping, reverby, echo delay, loops, sustainesque best . . . then Jon Durant is for you. I immediately got into this CD. The nine tracks are atmospheric, upbeat Levin/Manring jazzy, Torn funky, Brook spaced and Eno visioned masterpieces. This is the BEST collection of this type of guitar work I have ever heard. I have stuff by all the aforementioned artists but now I have found a guitarist in this vein that is never overdone, not caustic nor vapid, not repetitive nor too "out there". This album is just done so -- so very well. Call it a Windham Hill or ECM feel to it or that Mark Isham sensitivity as in his Vapor Drawings -- I can't quite coin the phrase but the gestalt, the ambience, is warm but stainless steel sheen. My favorite fusion-edged, "Dance of Maya"-like song is "Danger Boy" which rocks and screams endlessly down the twisted, tortured corridors of Durant's mind. He can do a whole album of jams like this. His playing is solid, ripping, sailing through, bizarre scales and then floating off on quicksilver seas only to come back like hornets on a mission of no mercy. Oh just buy this gem!! I need say no more.
Tony Levin on bass and stick, Vinny Sabatino on drums and percussives, with Harrison Durant on vocal assertion guest here and there on mainly a one-man offering that will stand the test of time. Thanks Jon for jumping into the fray. Extreme, high recommendations on this one!
-- John W. Patterson
Guitarist Jon Durant is part of that new generation of guitarist who were inspired by Hendrix and Fripp, but whose sound is quite contemporary, in no way retro. Those aspects distinguish his album Silent Extinction Beyond the Zero (54:03, Alchemy ALCD 1012). Like Rypdal, Torn, Belew and a host of others, Durant seeks out sounds that are colorful and new, and guitar gestures which have nothing to do with rock or jazz cliches. The colorful guitar sounds are couched in swathes of atmospheric textures. In this regard, Brian Eno is clearly a source of inspiration, even down to terms such as "cloud guitars," "ugly bass" and "sonic mayhem" in the credits.
It is difficult to imagine this work existing without Eno's ambient music and collaborations with the likes of Fripp and David Byrne as forerunners, if not in style, then certainly in aesthetics. Fripp is an especially important inspiration to Durant. In fact, many of the timbres and basic compositional approach derives from Fripp's work in the '90s. A clear indicator of both Durant's musical mind set and his musical chops is the presence of Tony Levin on Chapman stick and electric upright bass. This has got to be one of Alchemy's finest releases.
Guitarist Jon Durant makes music that is hard to define. On Silent Extinction Beyond The Zero he paints your ear drums with sonic graffiti that speaks to your subconscious emotions more than your conscious mind. His music is very ethereal and is a great vehicle for those who like to escape from reality by listening to ambient music.
Bassist and Stick player Tony Levin appears on two of the CD's 9 tracks, and his playing is creative and his technique is flawless. Best of all, you can easily hear Tony's parts because the fidelity of this CD is excellent. If you are a fan of Tony's playing, or you just love music that is extremely left of center, you should give this CD a listen.
- Bass Frontiers Magazine
If you like daring, experimental guitar of the Fripp/Belew/Torn kind, then check out this disc instantly. Durant's a master of floating "cloud guitars," an effect he achieves via a phalanx of delays, choruses, and other hi-tech signal processors. Pale chordal washes float in and out of the mix, creating an ethereal backdrop, while he occasionally chimes in with howling lead lines, as in the dramatic opener, "Crossing Zero." King Crimson bassist/Stick player Tony Levin guests on two tracks. Four guitars.
-Pete Prown, Guitar Shop Magazine
Jon Durant's guitar stretches and climbs all over the stratosphere, showing a soft ambient side on cuts like "Easter" or "Hope" and a hard-edged aggressive style on "Crossing Zero" or "Clutching Razors." Durant composed and improvised on his guitar, recording many tracks solo. In some cases, the bass, guitar and drums play off each other in a powerful way. On other cuts, a reverse of the usual method was employed, with his guitar tracks being created first, the other percussion and bass layered on top. The result is a free-flowing set of melodies which seem to float, twisting and turning, rather than being anchored in the rhythm section and filling in the leads. A far different flavor from fingerstyle guitar, more often resembling the sound and feel of electric violin in its tonal quality. He can take off as if he were beginning a blues, rock or fusion riff, and end up somewhere totally different. Claiming a space in the spectrum of music far apart from other contemporary guitarists, Durant delivers an album of intriguing textures and moods, dramatic and delirious.
-New Age Voice Magazine
Jon Durant, composer, musician and recording engineer has redefined the meanings of ambient and transportive in his brilliant new album Silent Extinction Beyond the Zero.
With the able assistance of Vinny Sabatino on percussion and Tony Levin on bass, guitarist Jon Durant has put together an outstanding tour-de-force of musical talent. And this assemblage is playing nine of Jon's original compositions...that are the heart and soul of this album.
For approximately 51 minutes, this reviewer's ability to meditate was greatly enhanced by Mr. Durant' s flowing musical poetry. At times intense, while at other times "floating", Silent Extinction Beyond the Zero provided me with ambience that allowed my mind freedom to drift unfettered.
And that leads to the other big plus of Silent Extinction Beyond the Zero, its ability to transport the listener to other, and often better places. I kicked back and felt like a soaring eagle looking down over glorious mountains, deep purple canyons and verdant plains.
Mr. Durant's music is pleasantly complex in that each phrase is textured and styled. The mixing and engineering techniques are superb, adding the perfect, professional luster to this tribute to peace and hopefulness.
If you are seeking an album that will allow you insight into your own psyche, look no further. Jon Durant has given us an innovative and often haunting recording. More than that, this reviewer found Silent Extinction Beyond the Zero to be a soundscape of therapy. In my opinion, this is an album that you will listen to over and over again and revel in its glory!
Reviews of Jon Durants's debut, "Three if By Air" (ALCD 1005), also available from Alchemy Records.