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Synesthesia – new album by The Kandinsky Effect

February 11, 2013 by · 1 comment

The Kandinsky Effect Europe CD Release Shows

Conceived on Paris’s cosmopolitan jazz scene, forged on the road in America, and informed by international currents in electronic music, The Kandinsky Effect is a jazz power trio for the 21st century. The trans-Atlantic band, based in New York City and Paris, makes its Cuneiform debut with Synesthesia, a roller-coaster ride of an album marked by fierce grooves, subtle electronic textures, intricate metrical shifts, and a commitment to empathic group interplay.


Featuring Warren Walker on saxophone and electronics, bassist Gaël Petrina, and drummer Caleb Dolister, The Kandinsky Effect explores a distinctive swath of sonic territory, inspired by similarly electronica-laced ensembles like Kneebody and Jaga Jazzist. With a long history as a cutting edge format, the saxophone, bass and drums trio is usually employed by horn players looking to explore harmonically unfettered improvisation. The Kandinsky Effect finds a different kind of freedom in the lack of a chordal instrument.

Steeped in improvisation and various post-bop vocabularies, the trio has honed a sound described by the Los Angeles Times as “bracing, electronically tweaked jazz.” It’s an approach that erases distinction between front line and rhythm section, as all three musicians constantly direct the music’s flow.

“I didn’t start with any kind of a theory or concept,” says Walker, 32, who wrote eight of the album’s 11 tracks. “This is what I wanted to hear. As a saxophone player, oftentimes you play the head and the solo, and then you’re out while the band plays on. When I started the band, I wanted to use the effects so that I was fully engaged with the band all the time, where I can comp, add chords and noises.”

The Kandinsky Effect – Left Over Shoes

The album opens with the rough and tumble “Johnny Utah,” which has little to do with Keanu Reeves’ surfer/FBI agent in the beloved 1991 film “Point Break,” except maybe a brooding sense of momentum, a relentless drive enhanced by clattering percussion breaks. Like several of Walker’s tunes “M.C.” moves sleekly through a series of sections, each built upon a different rhythmic theme or motif. In the same way, “Walking…” sounds more like a series of helter-skelter sprints over broken ground than a leisurely stroll. “One of our goals when we play through odd time meters is to give it as much fluidity as possible,” Dolister says. “We try and work on ways to keep the changing meters from being too jarring. A lot of that has to do with how we write and approach playing together. When we encounter a section that’s a little to weird we rework it so it’s more cohesive.”

Photo by Jim Rosemberg

“One of the ways to approach odd time meters is to not make it feel so jaggedy,” Dolister says. “We work really hard so the music doesn’t come across as jarring. A lot of that has to do with how we write and approach playing together. When we encounter a section that’s a little to weird we rework it so it’s cohesive.”

While the band excels at acceleration, The Kandinsky Effect also knows how to slow down, playing melodies that ooze and saunter. On Walker’s “Cusba,” the band displays a knack for mysterious balladry, with a coolly disquieting theme. The atmosphere gets thicker on “WK51” with the clattering march-time snare chatter building cinematic tension, the coiled calm before a deadly confrontation. The album closes with “If Only,” another ominously serpentine line with subtle layered effects that make it clear the trio has absorbed lessons from Bjork, Squarepusher, and Aphex Twin in developing a lapidary but spacious sound. “With purely acoustic instruments, sonic vocabulary is somewhat limited to the available tambours and polyphonic capabilities of each specific instrument,” Dolister says. “For example, with the saxophone you would typically only play one pitch at a time. But with a lot of the effects we use, we’re creating harmonic layers, and tweaking the tones. The result is we get a lot more sound and we get to mimic some of the electronic music we like.”

The Kandinsky Effect came together in Paris in 2007 when Walker, Petrina and drummer Gautier Garrigue started performing together as the Warren Walker Trio. The process of fully rechristening itself took about a year. Casting about for a moniker that reflected the band’s collective nature, they reluctantly borrowed the surname of the seminal Russian abstract painter. After a brief spell as the Kandinsky Trio, the band realized that a long-running chamber ensemble already existed with that name, which led to its current tag.

The Kandinsky Effect “MC” The Falcon, NY

The Kandinsky Effect released an eponymous debut album on SNP Records in 2010 that earned enthusiastic reviews. All About Jazz called The Kandinsky Effect “an organic, forward-thinking record”, noting that “First and foremost, despite (or maybe because of) their disparate backgrounds, all three musicians are on the same page, and their communication on this record borders on the telepathic.” Not long after the release came out, drummer Garrigue left the band. The SNP label was led by drummer/composer/producer Caleb Dolister, whom Walker knew from his college days in Reno.

Walker had wanted The Kandinsky Effect to tour more in North America, and Dolister, and now based in NYC, seemed an ideal choice to fill the drummer chair and provide a state-side anchor for the Parisian band. With Dolister on board, The Kandinsky Effect embarked in 2011 on extensive tours of the USA and Canada. It also performed that year at several prominent international jazz festivals, including the Reykjavik Jazz Festival in Iceland, and the Angel City Jazz Fest in Los Angeles, which garnered extensive press.

The Kandinsky Effect – If Only at The Blue Whale

Over dozens of shows performed in North America and Europe, the well-travelled trio of Walker, Petrina and Dolister had honed their collective sound to a fine polish. In September 2011, the transatlantic met in a studio mid-way between New York and Paris – in Rejkavik, Iceland! – to record their new album. The result was Synesthesia, The Kandinsky Effect’s second release, and the group’s first recordings on American-based, internationally-distributed Cuneiform Records. Featuring 11 captivating tracks (8 composed by Walker, 1 by Petrina and 2 by Dolister) that are simultaneously rhythmically gorgeous, groove-laden, compositionally interesting and immediately accessible, Synesthesia promises to spread the sensory magic of The Kandinsky Effect’s transatlantic jazz worldwide.

The Kandinsky Effect maintains an active performance calendar, appearing at both festivals and clubs worldwide. The group did a month-long tour of Canada and the USA in 2012, and will celebrate Cuneiform’s release of Synesthesia with extensive European and North American tours in 2013.

Upcoming Shows 2013

Jan.15 – Europe CD Release
Feb.21 – The Vortex, London, UK
Feb.22 – Secret Show, Somewhere, UK
Feb.23 – Brighton NOISE Festival, Brighton, UK
Feb.24 – Sazz N Jazz, Brussels, Belgium
Feb.28 – Le Mandala, Toulouse, France
Mar.01 – Le Périscope, Lyon, France
Mar.02 – Sunset / Sunside, Jazz Paris, France

2013 US & Canada
June.20 – The Rex, Toronto Canada
June.21 – The Rex, Toronto Canada

2013 Festivals
12.13 Sacramento Jazz Festival
12.14 Sacramento Jazz Festival


A saxophonist, composer, educator and producer based in New York and Paris, Warren Walker was raised in the rural Northern California gold rush town of Grass Valley. He became enamored with music at a young age, and by his early teens he was performing on jazz and blues gigs with his guitarist father, Thomas Walker. He credits his father (who died in 2003) with the Coltrane epiphany that turned him into a jazzhead. “He bought me ‘Giant Steps’ and I freaked out,” Walker recalls. “I listened to it on repeat days on end. I love and respect that music so much, though my playing ended up taking another direction.”

Walker earned a BM from the University of Nevada, Reno’s rigorous jazz program, where he studied with stellar musicians like Peter Epstein, David Ake, Hans Halt, Andy Heglund, and Larry Engstrom. “Everyone’s grounded in the jazz tradition and wants you to learn the roots, but mostly they want you to find your voice,” Walker says. “That’s where I started doing a lot of writing.” At the university, he also had the opportunity to share the stage with Joshua Redman, Dave Holland, Michael Brecker, Tim Warfield, Robin Eubanks, and Bob Berg. Walker also performed throughout the Reno/Tahoe area with an eclectic mix of area musicians and school ensembles.

After graduation, Walker lit out for Europe to pursue his career as a musician, declining a marketing job in San Francisco. One of only three musicians worldwide selected to perform at the Faenza International Saxophone Festival, he parlayed the prestigious gig into a three-week tour of central Italy. In February 2007, he settled in Paris, France and quickly forged ties with some of that city’s most adventurous players, including French/Ecuadorian bassist Gaël Petrina. In Paris, Walker formed the Warren Walker Trio (renamed The Kandinsky Effect), and began performing and touring internationally with it and other projects, forging his reputation as a rising star in the European Jazz Scene. In 2012, he moved back to the US, living in Brooklyn where he began collaborating with the NYC scene. Walker maintains an international presence through various groupings with extensive international tour schedules; including The Kandinsky Effect, which tours North America and Europe.

A top-notch bassist (acoustic and electric) in-demand, film score composer, and accomplished photographer currently living in Paris, Petrina grew up migrating between Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, London and Paris. His unique cultural background is reflected in his broad musical interests and influences are similarly far-flung. While devoted to jazz and improvised music, Petrina can also be found exploring the creative edge of rock, hip hop, electronica, Latin, and European classical music.

Petrina has performed at some of the world’s most prominent jazz festivals, and played in more than a dozen countries (including India) on three continents. In 2007 he played at the North Sea Jazz Festival, sharing the stage with Joshua Redman, Antonio Sanchez, Willy Joe Jones and Randy Brecker. 2008 marked the beginning of his international touring career; he performs with Germany’s Natalie Kies Trio and Mexico’s Fro Trio, which recently earned France’s most prestigious jazz award at the La Défense Jazz Festival (where Petrina also won 3rd place solo prize, the highest honor ever taken by an upright bassist). When he’s not touring (on multiple continents) or toiling in the studio, Petrina performs with more than 20 Paris-based projects. His main groups are The Kandinsky Effect, The Sharik Hasan Paris Trio, Les Yeux D’la Tete, the Franco/Swedish pop/rock group 1R1S, and Bootleg, his own electro/pop/rock band. Petrina also works as a teacher, a photographer, and a composer for Sirroco Films.

An in-demand drummer, producer and composer currently based in New York, Caleb was born into a musical family. He started performing with the family band when he was eight and began forming his own projects by age twelve. At seventeen, he began jazz studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he met Warren Walker.

Dolister, a highly dynamic drummer, is also a studio veteran, composer, producer, and record label owner. In 2004, he founded SNP Records, a musician-run independent recording group whose releases include The Kandinsky Effects’ debut recording. Before settling in New York City, he spent time working in Nashville and Los Angeles in addition to touring for several years with multiple jazz and rock projects. Dolister has performed on over 30 commercially released albums, and has production/engineering credits on an additional 10 projects. At the helm of a highly creative solo project, the Daily Thumbprint Collection, he’s gathered contributions from more than 20 top-shelf musicians from around the country for the project’s second album, slated for release in 2013. With his affinity for sound engineering and post -production effects, he helped shape the subtle but pervasive sound design of Synesthesia.

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