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Since forming in 2012 Chicago’s Twin Talk has steadily drifted from the conventions of the saxophone trio. While reedist Dustin Laurenzi, bassist-singer Katie Ernst, and drummer Andrew Green are deeply rooted in jazz tradition, they’ve spent their time on the band stage together making their music more elastic, spontaneous, and open, embracing new inspirations without stifling the improvisational heart of their work. All three musicians are active members in the city’s bustling jazz community, each playing in numerous working bands, but they’ve found a true collective voice as Twin Talk. They’ve used live performances as opportunities to stretch—expanding on composed material and ditching set lists in favor of calling tunes on the fly—but on Weaver they’ve pushed themselves further than ever, using the recording studio as a place for experimentation, letting a new batch of compositions develop and take new shapes. As critic Howard Reich wrote recently in the Chicago Tribune, “These musicians listen keenly to one another, and with a sensitivity that only comes from familiarity and trust."
Laurenzi spent much of 2016-17 on tour with Bon Iver, and when the group’s leader Justin Vernon caught a Twin Talk gig in Minneapolis he was knocked out and offered the trio a chance to record at his celebrated April Base studio. With five luxurious days at its disposal, Twin Talk recorded its new book of tunes as it had traditionally—live and unadorned. Then they spent the next three days reshaping the material with carefully plotted overdubs and edits, forging sleek arrangements with lush harmonies—the soulful, patiently accruing horn charts that limn the aching country-soul melody of “Folks,” or the ethereal wordless vocals of Ernst that float in deft unison with Laurenzi’s serene clarinet in the postlude of “Paxton,” the sole piece on the recording to splice two discrete sections to produce an intentionally jarring transition.
Ernst is a genuine double threat, her muscular bass playing matched by a crystalline voice—an instrument of astonishing precision and clarity. Those talents have been recognized by many, including pianist and composer Jason Moran, who made her playing and singing an integral part of his monumental suite Looks of a Lot in 2015. Her vocals are featured on “Solace,” a ballad of disarming beauty, as a solemn delivery initially backed by sonorous double stops gradually opens up with Laurenzi’s sobbing commentary and Green’s increasingly forceful pulse. As the song reaches its conclusion the contained emotions seem to burst into tears, only for Ernst to deliver a serene coda streaked with hope. Most of the music on Weaver pushes through shifting terrain. “The Sky Never Ends” toggles between gossamer delicacy, pop-like splendor, and explosive exposition, while the gorgeously meditative “Five” offers an extended platform for Green’s melodic percussion before Laurenzi’s knotty tenor cries push toward a rewarding climax. Vernon’s enthusiasm for Twin Talk continues, as he ushers Weaver into the world through his eclectic PEOPLE platform on February 8, 2019.
Levi Saelua was born in San Francisco, CA. He began his musical studies at age 6 with the Sacramento Taiko Dan under the direction of Tiffany Tamaribuchi. At age 9, he began studying the saxophone and, five years later, arranged his first piece for jazz combo while attending Rio Americano High School. Upon graduating from Rio's jazz program, Levi furthered his music education at the Eastman School of Music, studying saxophone with Chien-Kwan Lin, Jose Encarnacion, and Charles Pillow, and jazz composition with Bill Dobbins and Dave Rivello. As a student at Eastman, Levi had the opportunity to work with artists such as Bob Brookmeyer, Maria Schneider, Bill Holman, Dennis Mackrel, Ryan Truesdell, Byron Stripling, Jeff Beal, and many others. Levi has performed in theaters and concert halls all over North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. He currently resides in Sacramento, CA.