In political-speak, a “big tent” political party attempts to gain electoral success by adopting a wide range of polices to attract diverse constituents (think of the 19th century Republican Party or the New Deal Democrats). In the jazz world, the young collective Great On Paper is a musical big tent. On their forthcoming debut album, the harmonies of Steve Coleman sit next to bouts of straight-ahead swing, while the music of classical composer Olivier Messiaen is suffused with ECM atmospherics.
Featuring Kevin Sun¹ on saxophones, Isaac Wilson on keyboards, Simón Willson on bass, and Robin Baytas on drums, Great On Paper began as a secretive jazz experiment at New England Conservatory. The quartet would convene in practice rooms to collaboratively deconstruct standards, quietly concocting a distinctive jazz vocabulary. In 2013, the group began to work in the classroom with accordionist and composer Ted Reichman, and in 2014, was chosen as NEC’s honors jazz ensemble.
This year, Great on Paper has stepped out of the classroom and into the wider jazz world. This March, the group gathered at Sear Sound in New York to document their distinctive and developing take on the jazz tradition, featuring originals from Mssrs. Wilson, Willson, and Sun, as well as a standard and a piece by the aforementioned Messiaen. On Thursday, August 13th, Great On Paper kicks off their “East Coast Campaign” at The Jazz Gallery, before moving up and down the east coast over the next week.
Definitely check out the group’s YouTube playlist below to hear their feast of influences, but as is the case with any tight-knit, collaborative ensemble, the real fireworks happen live on the bandstand.
Great On Paper plays The Jazz Gallery on Thursday, August 13th, 2015. The group features Kevin Sun on saxophones, Isaac Wilson on piano, Simón Willson on bass, and Robin Baytas on drums. Sets are at 8 and 10 p.m. $15 general admission ($10 for members) for the first set, $10 general admission ($8 for members) for the second. Free with SummerPass. Purchase tickets here.
1. The esteemed editor emeritus of this distinguished publication.