Babcock Season at Sweet Briar presents ‘layered sonic spaces’ by Chicago-based jazz sextet Restroy

Posted on March 18, 2019 by Janika Carey

Sweet Briar’s 2018-2019 Babcock Season continues with Chicago-based jazz band Restroy at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, in Memorial Chapel. The event will also feature a solo by Sweet Briar dance major Rachel Barnes ’20 and is free and open to the public.

Led by composer and bassist Christopher Dammann, Restroy describe themselves as a “frisson of transformation that dives into the intersection of improvised and contemporary American music. Restroy connects, dissects and evolves musical traditions to find а shared tongue, forge space for communication and provoke metamorphosis in both participant and listener.”

That approach comes through on the group’s self-titled 2018 album, which uses patterns and textures as forms of improvisation. Electronic textures and noise amplify — and are juxtaposed against — acoustic instruments. The result is an “exuberant, lyrical series of inflection points and layered sonic spaces” anchored by Chicago jazz drummer legend Avreeayl Ra, who has performed and/or recorded with Fred Anderson, Amiri Baraka, Fontella Bass, Lester Bowie, Ari Brown, Oscar Brown, Jr., Henry Butler, Henry Byrd, Hamid Drake, Malachi Favors, Donald Raphael Garrett, Charles Gayle, Henry Grimes, Billy Harper, Joseph Jarman, Edward “Kidd” Jordan, Nicole Mitchell, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, Malachi Thompson and many more.

The sextet also includes James Davis (trumpet and electronics), Paul Giallorenzo (synthesizers and keyboards), Mabel Kwan (piano and synthesizers) and Kevin Davis (cello and electronics).

While, as Dan Jarvis writes in this review, the album may not appeal to every jazz fan, it is “sure to resonate with fans of the avant-garde who prefer jazz that pushes the envelope.” The album’s seven tracks, he adds, are “both rooted in the past but looking towards the future. These songs sit at the intersection of improvised experimentation and contemporary American jazz, blending the two in a way that is undeniably cool.”

Dammann, who didn’t really study music until he went to Northwestern University, where he earned a degree in jazz studies, told the Daily Progress in 2016: “I think of [Restroy] as contemporary classical music. But I also like pop music. It doesn’t sound like pop music, but in my head it does.”

For more information, email Mark Magruder at