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Elkhorn, 'South'

Elkhorn offers us a chance to hear music changing its mind in real time — spontaneous composition with nothing to prove. The latest album from the NYC duo features four tracks, each named after a cardinal point. While the previous releases have been mainly driven by the 12-string acoustic guitar of Jesse Sheppard and electric six-string of Drew Gardner, On the Whole Universe in All Directions finds Gardner using vibraphone and drums to counterpoint Sheppard.

The second track "South" provides a big payoff in reasonable patience. Vastness is the rule: Sheppard plays open, ambiguous chords — voicings of ninths, 11ths and sus-chords — clusters of notes that are ripe for improvisation, able to move in any number of directions. Gardner's initial vibraphone melodies nudge at gospel music, but then he seems to inject tones in the performance that are quick, passing commentaries on Sheppard's fingerpicking. A third of the way in, Sheppard and Gardner find cohesion in a two-chord vamp with a pointillistic drum shuffle; the final act of "South" dissolves in an unhurried pace.

Copyright 2023 WJCT News 89.9

Daniel A. Brown