E. E. Pointer: “Quarantine Dreams” (2021) Review
During the quiet time of the pandemic’s core, veteran KC jazzer E. E. Pointer chose to make music. His home group, River Cow Orchestra, could not play out, but the music went on—for Pointer, in his basement, solo: Pointer and the trumpet and his musical computer. Pointer’s music is
catchy, but eclectic, sometimes much like the music of late Miles Davis. In some ways, it’s synchronicity that Pointer’s new album drops at the same time as “Merci! Miles Live at Vienne,” a performance of Miles Davis Group on July 1, 1991, at the Jazz à Vienne festival in France, previously unreleased, but dropped June 25, 2021.
Track two (“Thugs from Beyond”) from Pointer’s album is most like later Miles: haunting, sparse, a little electric. Pointer, like Miles, says more with few notes. Pointer said this track draws upon the feel of movies of the 1950s, where “there would be…when you would see inside the spaceship…this low rumble all of the time, the motor, all of the time…That’s where that drone comes from in that tune.” And it drones gamelan- or digeridoo-like, but spicier, present, and spacy. But the album is not all sparse and minimalistic. The album contains a web of modern styles, a number of them, though experimental, rooted in the KC tradition. Track one, “Tesla’s Dance,” for instance, might be called a contemporary, electric bop. About that, Pointer says, “the first tune…the real fast one…I had been listening to some bop,” and Pointer goes on to recount an iconic, almost mythic, tale from his youth, where he asked about the father of bop. Pointer asked about Parker, and one of the Scamps said, “I played with Bill. I played with Charlie…Did you realize Charlie Parker is dead?” then leaned in and said, “Three words: too many notes.” But Pointer cannot be accused of that in this album, which is most often sparse, thoughtful. It’s a mix of sonic impressionism and minimalism. Pointer said, “my preference is not necessarily so many notes, but whatever notes I play mean something.” The album is all originals. It’s all one man playing. But it’s a soundscape that is so much more than one individual and his trumpet and his computer. It’s a cosmic world Pointer creates—expansive, thoughtful, engaging. Fans of late Davis (and fans of new music) will likely love it. Pointer spoke about the call to make music when the music seemingly stopped during the pandemic—and his wish for his listeners. He said, “I had to do something during the pandemic. That was sad, when I look back at it. Not what we did, but the essence of the pandemic, when everyone was shut up and didn’t get out. My brain was pretty warped after I…had done all of these (tunes). I would urge everyone to put on your headphones, get your favorite adult beverage, and enjoy…what I have done.”