Marc Sabatella


"Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition"
(Monty Python’s Flying Circus)

I find myself in the awkward position of trying to describe my music to someone who has not heard it before. This is somewhat ironic in that I chose the name for this project with the specific intention of not setting up any particular expectations in the minds of my potential audience. I did this because while the most straightforward description of my music would simply be "jazz", that word seems to mean something different to everyone. Among those with an affinity for jazz, arguments over what does and does not qualify can become painfully tiresome in their religious fervor. My music is not always designed to appease the sensibilities of the more conservative jazz fans. However, I have found that my music does appeal to many who would not otherwise claim an interest in jazz, and I would not want to sabotage my opportunity to reach this audience by clinging to a term that may have negative connotations for them. On the other hand, I can think of no better label to describe my music. In fact, I consider myself a traditionalist when it comes to jazz, although you must keep in mind that I believe "the tradition" includes musicians like Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, and John Zorn, just as surely as it includes Ellington, Parker, Mingus, and Coltrane. There is nothing on this CD that is without precedent, and indeed, most of it is quite conventional when one considers my perspective on jazz. Of course, I would like to think that I have developed my own distinctive voice within that tradition. Yet neither my compositions nor my playing would have been out of place on a number of albums recorded in the 1970's, a decade that some revisionist historians have dubbed a wasteland of fusion, but which also produced masterpieces like Dave Holland's Conference Of The Birds and the music on Keith Jarrett’s recently reissued Mysteries box set, and which marked the birth of the Don Pullen / George Adams quartet as well. These are among the most obvious stylistic antecedents to The Spanish Inquisition, although we tend to look forward, not behind us, for inspiration.

The musicians you hear on this recording are myself on piano (plus the soprano recorder at the beginning of Or Not), Erik Turkman on acoustic bass, Thomas Van Schoick on drums and percussion, and Peter Sommer on tenor and soprano saxophones. Erik, Thomas, and I have played together for around six years, as a trio and as the rhythm section for a group led by vibraphonist Greg Carroll. At first, I had planned to record a trio album with Erik and Thomas, but we wanted to add a horn for two or three tunes. Peter, who was a student of Greg's, came highly recommended, and he worked out so well in rehearsal that we wrote him in for most of the rest of the compositions as well.

This is my first recording as a leader, although I have also played on a couple of as-yet-unreleased sessions by trumpeter Hugh Ragin. Outside of my current home state of Colorado, I am probably best known as an active participant on the internet newsgroup, and through my recently published book on jazz improvisation, A Whole Approach To Jazz Improvisation, which has been freely available online for several years as A Jazz Improvisation Primer. It should then come as no surprise that I like to write, so despite the reservations expressed in the opening paragraph, I welcomed the opportunity to author these liner notes. It may be true that nobody expects The Spanish Inquisition, but I hope you will welcome our arrival.

Marc Sabatella, December 1996

For further reading, you can visit Marc’s Outside Shore Music Web Site

Golden Horn Releases with Marc Sabatella: