ALBUM OF THE WEEK: The 442s (Self-Titled)

by Maggie Molloy

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The 442s are not your average string quartet. Though the group gets its name from the standard orchestral tuning of 442 Hz, they certainly do not confine themselves to the classical music tradition.

The band was formed in 2012 by two classically-trained musicians from the St. Louis Symphony and two talented jazz musicians from the Erin Bode Group. Together, the musicians have cultivated an acoustic instrumental quartet which offers its listeners an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, rock, world, and folk music genres.

The quartet is composed of violinist Shawn Weil, cellist Bjorn Ranheim, double bassist Sydney Rodway, and composer, keyboardist, and guitarist Adam Maness. This past May, the group released their self-titled debut album.

Aside from the extraordinary musicianship of each member, the most striking element of The 442s debut album is its musical diversity. The group transitions flawlessly from rhythmic, percussive soundscapes to gentle, flowing melodies to lively jazz piano solos and everything in between.  The group also experiments with improvisation, whistle solos, group vocals, and much more.

The composer behind The 442s unique sound is their pianist and guitarist Adam Maness, who can also be heard playing accordion, melodica, and glockenspiel on various tracks. Though Maness is responsible for writing most of the music, all of the musicians in the group collaborate and improvise to create a cohesive group sound.

“I’ve tried to write music without any restraints of specific genres or forms. Whether that involves the symphonic members of the group singing and improvising on the spot, or crafting through-composed passages for the jazz members of the group, I try to compose this music not simply for the notes on the page, but for the particular strengths of each member of the ensemble,” Maness said.

The diversity of sounds cultivated throughout the album allows the listener to travel through a variety of musical landscapes. In fact, the album even comes with a fold-out map and compass created by James Walker of the St. Louis design studio Husbandmen.

“The map is the imaginary world of our album,” Maness said. “Each location is a song, and each has a corresponding image.”

The album’s opening track, “Shibuya,” takes the listener through the hustle and bustle of a Tokyo neighborhood. The track begins with a rhythm-driven texture which later gives way to a flowing violin melody. Each string player weaves in and out of the musical forefront like people weaving across the busy Shibuya city streets.

The album then travels through a variety of musical ideas. “The Caves and the Cold,” for instance, experiments with a percussive sound and group vocals, giving it a folk feel.

“Our love of folk and pop certainly comes out more in the vocal songs,” Maness noted.

“Heston’s” harnesses a soft, gentle sound with rich, flowing melodies, and “The One” pairs a sparser musical texture with beautiful vocals by jazz singer Erin Bode.

“Irish is Reel” opens with a lively Irish folk melody on piano, which is then taken over by the strings and transformed throughout the tune. “Chime” showcases Rodway’s jazz bass chops, while “Hondo’s” features a groovy jazz piano solo by Maness.

“We’re a band made of two classical musicians and two jazz musicians, and we’ve tried to write songs that feature the skills of both of those disciplines,” Maness said.

“Multitude,” the album’s final track, begins with a rhythm-driven, percussive texture which is later layered with soaring violin and cello melodies. The piece transitions back and forth between rhythmic textures and more nebulous, flowing resonances before ending together in perfect unison.

It is a true testament to the musicianship of The 442s that they are able to travel through so many different genres and musical ideas in just under one hour. Check out their new album and join them on their musical journey!

VIDEO: In-Studio Performance at Second Inversion

Joshua Roman, Susie Park, Jocelin Pan, and Andrius Zlabys perform the first movement, Toccata, from Yevgeniy Sharlat’s Piano Quartet.

This piece was featured on the TownMusic at Town Hall Seattle season opener in September and the musicians stopped by our studio for a sneak peek.

Stay tuned for more exciting video projects from the Second Inversion studios!

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Time for Three (Self-Titled)

by Maggie Stapleton

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Time for Three (a.k.a. TF3) totally nails the concept of “Rethink Classical.”  The members of this genre-defying trio (Zachary (Zach) De Pue, violin; Nicolas (Nick) Kendall, violin; and Ranaan Meyer, double bass) were trained at the Curtis Institute of Music and undoubtedly have incredible classical chops.  Their fluency and natural ability to play arrangements of The Beatles, Kanye West, and Katy Perry equally as well as Bach and Brahms is what sets these guys apart and makes their self-proclaimed “classically-trained garage band” title totally accurate.

“How do we reach a younger audience?” is a hot topic among symphony orchestras around the globe right now.  The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has teamed up with TF3 for their “Happy Hour Series,” where they perform on about four programs per year.  I had a chance to talk to TF3 a few weeks ago about this experience and they absolutely love it.  They’ve developed a fan base of young professionals (90% are ages 20-45) who keep coming back, concert after concert.  TF3 caters to the needs of that demographic by crafting performances in the concert hall that are similar in format to rock shows – lights, trajectory of a playlist that takes you on a journey, and music that is groove-oriented and familiar.  They’ll pair Beethoven alongside Coldplay… Brahms… Radiohead.  The audience may come for the Radiohead, but find unexpected connections with Brahms.

And speaking of performances and venues, the guys are currently on tour and stopping right here in Seattle on Wednesday, August 13 at the Columbia City Theater, where you can sit or stand, drink a beer, dance, and make merry in this fun, historic space.  The show starts at 8pm and tickets are still available!

Their recently released self-titled album is an emblem for the modern era of genre-crossover, containing an impressive collection of arrangements, originals, and guest performers (Joshua Radin! Alisa Weilerstein!  Jake Shimabukuro!  Branford Marsalis!  Lily & Madeleine!).  We had the pleasure of having Nick, Ranaan, and Zach in our studios for a special in-studio performance:

(this session is no longer available)

Our hats are off to you, TF3, for this amazing collection of originals, covers, and collaborations!  If you like what you hear, pop over to iTunes or Amazon and make it yours.