I remember these words being spoken by Daniel Carter 3 or 4 hours into our first “rehearsal” as a group. Musical instruments had not yet been touched - we were consumed by deep conversation, most of which was framed by the shift in reality caused by the 2016 election which had just occurred around the time the group was formed. In fact, Daniel was paraphrasing Cecil Taylor, who he remembered had relayed the same words to his group, when one of their rehearsals had transformed into a several hours long conversation. Looking back, it’s easy to see that quote, in that moment, as representative of the central concept of XNN.
A typical XNN session begins upon Daniel’s arrival, exuberantly sharing the bevy of new current events, philosophical, and musical information he’s been digesting that week as he takes his time unpacking his multitude of instruments. Never failing to present challenging, alternative perspectives, the group dialogue runs the emotional gamut from curiosity and surprise, to anger and frustration - always landing on laughter and love.
It occurs to me now that, quite literally, this was and is the way we prepare to play. In some ensembles, it makes sense to go over sheet music and chord changes in order to prepare the music. For XNN, though, the hang is essentially practicing the ability to exist in paradoxical and liminal spaces. Can we remain curious and open to new perspectives while standing firm in the principles that make us who we are? To what extent can we sincerely consider an idea that challenges everything we think we believe?
What better training to play improvised music than to deal with these questions!
After years of this process, XNN has coalesced into a collective with a unique ability to stand firm in their individual musical personalities while collectively reaching something greater. Ben Cohen’s remarkable focus in building sound, expanding tone and developing ideas - Daniel Carter’s one of a kind ability to twist, alter and subtly shift melodic phrases without ever abandoning his own melodicism - Eli Wallace’s patience, stability and complete command of his wholly unique tonal palette, and Dan Kurfirst’s personally developed repertoire of global rhythm language - all this and more seamlessly blends into a music that is free, danceable, chaotic and peaceful all at once.
Born in 2016, the year that our society entered an unprecedented period of polarization - XNN provides a living, musical example of how different perspectives and individuals might co-exist while creatively improvising in order to arrive at something beautiful based on a mutual respect of the other’s humanity. It’s our hope that this small, yet sincere offering, might in some way, move someone, in that direction.
released October 1, 2020
Daniel Carter - Saxophones, Trumpet, Flute, Clarinet
Ben Cohen - Saxophones
Eli Wallace - Piano
Dan Kurfirst - Drums
Recorded at Tedesco Studios Nov 2nd, 2019
Engineered, mixed and mastered by Tom Tedesco
Artwork by Meghan Desmond
Two fifths of the acclaimed group Irreversible Entanglements create a revolutionary LP celebrating Latin and Afro-Caribbean influences through intricate drum and brass arrangements. Bandcamp Album of the Day Oct 21, 2020