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  • Jonathan Widran


'In addition to being an influential educator at the University of Illinois, Chicago, saxophonist, composer, arranger and musical visionary Amos Gillespie has fulfilled numerous commissions ranging from jazz to chamber music while also composing for film, dance productions and theatre. He brings a vast array of these wide ranging talents to Unstructured Time for Jazz Septet, which doubles as his first bona fide jazz ensemble album and an ambitious multi-faceted and stylistically diverse concept project (featuring the beautiful emotive vocals of Alexandra Olsavsky on five songs) about finding introspective peace in a loud and chaotic, anxiety filled world.

Having composed it before and during the pandemic, Unstructured Time had its premiere in April 2021 at the Fulton Street Collective in Chicago. For those who missed what had to be a stunning, heartrending, sometimes overwhelming but ultimately hopeful presentation, the album is a powerful representation of Gillespie’s vision for confronting, working through and ultimately triumphing over the many challenges the modern world presents.

The 9-track narrative begins with a nearly 11 minute overture, that, if taken out of its context, would roll like a lively, lyrical and often boisterous jam showcasing Gillespie’s explosive melodic and improvisational chops and features dynamic soloing by guitarist Casey Neilson and pianist Paul Bedal. On the songs featuring Olsavsky – starting with “Deconstructed, about learning to savor moments and capture joy amidst our daily routines - Gillespie scales back on his intense jazz artistry to showcase his grand skills as a songwriter. Her soulful delivery of his unique, image laden stream of consciousness poetry on tunes like “Like A Blossom” and “Fewer Words” ensure that Gillespie is making a major statement about society with this album.

These are nicely balanced by adventurous jazz instrumentals that can be enjoyed separately or in service of the story, including the plucky, guitar and piano driven “Nothing Changes” and the feisty, percussive sax driven closer “Juiced,” which sums up the crazy energy let loose when the quarantine finally lifted.


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