Brett Sroka • Shawn Baltazor • Sam Harris

"Ergo has fine-tuned an unusual and evocative mix of tautness and incongruity.... There are a lot of unusual elements at play but what makes Ergo so great is that in the end all the parts fit." – NYC Jazz Record

With his embrace of open space and strategic use of silence, trombonist, composer, and sonic architect Brett Sroka has honed an inviting improvisation-laced sound in his trio Ergo, an electro-acoustic group approach that often reveals astonishing, strangely beautiful and unexpected realms. Featuring drummer Shawn Baltazor and Sam Harris on piano, prepared piano and Fender Rhodes.

Their music is one of stark melodic beauty, enveloping electro-acoustic texture and empathic imagination. They have been playing together since 2003, combining the modern sound of electronica and beyond with jazz and ambient music. The basic building blocks of their sound are beats and electronics, trombone, the Fender Rhodes and drums. The music here generally develops slowly but it's also very accessible while remaining something that holds active interest. ï


RUNE 419

“Ergo's music is also rooted in jazz...fused with electronica and a distinct avant-garde feel. ...quite beautiful and moving...a bit like Sigur Ros meeting Sun Ra uptown.”

“This is music that evolves slowly, almost imperceptibly; yet for all its freedom, there's no shortage of structure...Sroka takes a different approach to composition, one where improvisation and structure work hand-in-hand, each feeding the other.”
All About Jazz

As subtle as tomorrow
That never came,
A warrant, a conviction,
Yet but a name.
--Emily Dickinson

With his embrace of open space and strategic use of silence, trombonist, composer, and sonic architect Brett Sroka has honed an inviting improvisation-laced sound in his trio Ergo, an electro-acoustic group approach that often reveals astonishing, strangely beautiful and unexpected realms. What’s not surprising about Ergo is discovering Sroka’s affinity for Emily Dickinson, the poet whose radical concision and visionary deployment of silence is unmatched in the English language. Featuring drummer Shawn Baltazor and Sam Harris on piano, prepared piano and Fender Rhodes, As subtle as tomorrow captures the latest evolution of Sroka’s singular vision and is based on a brief and typically cryptic Dickinson verse.

A seven-piece suite in which overlapping melodies, motifs and improvisations organically evolve into and out of the music’s electronic elements, As subtle as tomorrow takes its name from a Dickinson poem that can be reconstructed from the fragments and phrases that Sroka borrowed as tune titles. Evocative and mysterious, playful and spiritually charged as a Zen koan, the music is inspired by the stark intensity and hymn-like clarity with which Dickinson considers and transcends thoughts of time and destiny.

Steeped in jazz and inspired by artists from Stockhausen, Xenakis, and Terry Riley to Sigur Ros and Aphex Twin, Sroka infuses Ergo’s music with an improvisational ethos. Every acoustic and electronic sound takes place in real time, created as the trio plays together. The experience of performing the music in concert deeply informed the suite’s development, and the music unfolds with its own interior logic.

In something of a “chicken and egg” approach, Sroka composed the themes on paper in conjunction with designing a Max/MSP software instrument to sample and process them. Under Sroka’s direction the trio is devoted to exploring the push and pull between structure and freedom, density and spaciousness, and electronic and acoustic timbres.

One can see Ergo’s transparent sound as a conscious reaction to the prevalence of frenetic, sonically dense music being created by some of Sroka’s contemporaries. “There’s something that appeals to me about space and silence and attractive melodies,” he says. “I’m interested in ambient music, which led to Arvo Pärt and John Cage and patient listening music that incorporates a lot of silence.”

As subtle as tomorrow press release

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RUNE 339

"This wildly experimental electro-acoustic ensemble...concocts some strangely compelling music...nothing is predictable or tame on If Not Inertia.... Adventurous ears will appreciate what these sonic seekers are putting down here." – JazzTimes

Ergo is a unique electro-acoustic jazz ensemble, who mine areas in sound that no one else in jazz approaches. While all the players have a strong background in conventional jazz, they are also all young players who have grown up listening to a wide variety of music and they have also grown up with contemporary technology. If Not Inertia is their third album and they continue to use the same basic sonic palette that has characterized their work from the beginning: Brett Sroka performs on trombone and computer, Sam Harris plays piano, prepared piano and Fender Rhodes piano and Shawn Baltazor is the drummer.

If Not Inertia is a release of quietly building and subtly stunning music; music based on loops, improvisation, small composed motifs and the interplay of the musicians. For the first time, on this release, they have worked with two guest musicians, both of them guitarists. Acclaimed new-music/new-jazz guitarist Mary Halvorson appears on nearly half of the album and acoustic guitarist Sebastian Kruger appears on the final track. The guitarists add a new texture to Ergo's sound; a sound unique in jazz today!

In addition to the music, also included on the CD is a .mov file of a five minute, high quality promotional 'making of' film entitled The Making of If Not Inertia, which has some interview insights from the musicians, as well as some insight from the studio sessions on how this album was created.

If Not Inertia press release

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RUNE 289

In the early 2000s, Brett Sroka began exploring beyond his Jazz background and became fascinated with electronic music, surrounding himself with synthesizers and software. As he sought to reconcile the six hundred years of technology between trombone and computer he also found musicians of similarly elastic and adventurous temperaments. As they continued to play together, an idiosyncratic dynamic began to cohere and Ergo was born. With their debut cd, the band put forth a statement of purpose and were lauded by AllAboutJazz-NY for “Best Debut CD” of 2006. Ergo’s sophomore cd, “multitude, solitude” brings the band further into it’s own. They have refined a unique style of unadorned melody and intrepid improvisation with a sensual approach to the post-modern techniques of sampling, synthesis and signal processing.

"[Ergo] has a deft touch when it comes to molding silence and drones into rich celestial balladry....a nifty confluence of George Lewis's dreamscapes and Miles's Lonely Fire, and while it's a record that invites you to watch the embers glow, it does its fair share of shooting off sparks." -– The Village Voice

"... this atmospheric collective, which takes full advantage of electronic programming and cross-genre appropriation... performs in celebration of its intentionally spooky new album... - New York Times

"...the trio dubbed Ergo represents a new era in music making where chill and improvisation meet headlong in the personal computer-driven age. Blessed with reputations as leaders in their own right, trombonist Brett Sroka and keyboardist Carl Maguire merge separate and distinct identities in creative jazz-oriented music to create urban, rural and atmospheric soundscapes that go to the far side of any discernible influences, including that of Eno, Sun Ra, Autechre, or Curtis Fuller. There's a tuneful quality, consistent drones and spikes that suggest industrialism, retro fusion via Maguire's Fender Rhodes electric piano, and even an underground bop aesthetic fueled by post-art rock and tempered with the romanticism of Sigur Rós. The trio has also been signified as embracing a laconic existentialism, but you'll hear them go well beyond any strictly defined tones, into completely new horizons similar to nothing you've heard before. Sroka is an accomplished and legitimate jazz trombone player as you clearly hear during his melodic passages on "Little Shadow," an underwater mermaid song carried across the waves of drummer Shawn Baltazor's cymbal rolls and washes. Overdubbed layers of Sroka's slide horn in light clarion echoes identifies the waltz on the Mars motif of "She Haunts Me." But he's playing music on a computer for the bulk of this recording alongside Maguire's Prophet synthesizer and electronics, as punctuated in the extended track "Vessel," as late-night aural beacons in a modern space ballad constantly ebb and flow. The spookier side of the Rhodes piano with synth swells expands exponentially, as electric taps and quivers cement the core values of "Rana Sylvatica." There's no lack of patience and virtue heard on the appropriately titled "Endlessly," where development of the spontaneous composition is taken in measured, tiny steps that never break stride or burst out in over-exuberance. A faux tango in surreal dialog is defined in cries of lonely despair on "Actuator," where the Internet and vacuous connections are an only friend, triggered by these wanton, adept musicians. Ergo has touched on something quite unique and cool in contemporary fusion music with Multitude, Solitude, reaching into and past modern creative, ambient music or mere basic electronica. Teamwork, acute listening skills, and hegemony are a few of the many common threads employed in making this captivating, hypnotic, and attractively exotic music..." – Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide

"...explores the intersections of electronic music, Jazz improvisation, and smart Rock bands...using these to good effect on this moody and memorable recording." – Cadence

"Trombonist Brett Sroka, keyboardist Carl Maguire and drummer Shawn Baltazor are all part of a generation for which Autechre and Sigur Ros are as pressing concerns as Armstrong and Sun Ra. That's certainly evident in the band's timbral sophistication, spacey contours and slinky grooves." – Time Out New York

Multitude, Solitude press release

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As subtle as tomorrow
If Not Intertia
multitude, solitude
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As subtle as tomorrow press release
If Not Inertia press release
If Not Inertia press quotes
Multitude, Solitude press release
Multitude, Solitude press quotes
Quality Anatomechanical Music Since 2005 press quotes

1/21/2013: Happy 2013! MLK Day + 2012's Best + 2013's Tours
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