Portlander-turned-Brit Robert Stillman is a composer and multi-instrumentalist with an emphasis on saxophone. Last year, he released “Rainbow,” a six-song EP dedicated to his wife, Anna; late daughter, Ruth, and second-born daughter, Romily, with nods also to his home of Kent, England, and Warren, a blue station wagon.
Stillman’s been blowing his horn since he was 11 years old and is an accomplished player to say the very least. He came home last year for a show at Space and almost exactly one year later, he’s returning to that stage, this time with a handful of his musically adept friends.
The band is called Stillman, Krimsky, Weisman & Weisman. Stillman’s on tenor sax, Eliot Krimsky is on piano, Chris Weisman is on guitar Kurt Weisman is on flute and cello. The Weisman brothers live in Brattleboro, Vermont, and Krimsky’s a New Yorker, so this truly is a one-time gathering.
Stillman got in touch with me about the show and explained it would be a mostly instrumental affair with a few vocal tunes in the mix from Krimsky on his songs. We’re to expect plenty of improvisation but most of it over repeated figures or drones rather than free improvisation or playing over chord changes, said Stillman. Without a drummer or bassist, Stillman added that they might be playing some unconventional roles on their instruments. “For example, I’ll be playing some ‘bass lines’ on saxophone, and I know Kurt has requested that, for one of his songs, Eliot play a wonderful samples instrument based on a recording of Oprah speaking.” This alone is worth going to this show to hear, as far as I’m concerned.
I asked Stillman if he considers their sound experimental, and he wasn’t ready to commit to that but did say that the four of them are all following a kind of personal music ideal rather than a particular musical genre. “I don’t think there will be a clear ‘style’ here, but we’ll see,” he said. The show will feature songs composed by all four of the musicians and titles include “Indra’s Net,” “Porcupinecone,” “Peace on Earth” and “North Pond Hermit.” I’m particularity interested in that last one having just read Michael Finkel’s “The Stranger in the Woods,” which tells of the love of classical music that hermit Christopher Knight developed during all those years in the woods.
Curiosity about what these guys all sound like led me to the Space website (space538.org) where I found clips handily assembled from Stillman, his band Glass Ghost (of which Krimsky is a member), a Chris Weisman track and one from Kurt Weisman.
“As He Walked Into the Field” was the first one to hit my ears. It’s a Stillman track with a gorgeous tapestry of piano coupled with sax and some percussion. The song gains momentum over the course of its almost seven minutes but always keeps one foot on the ground making it a gentle sound-scape I found myself slipping comfortably into like a daydream.
Take a listen to “As He Walked Into the Field”
The Glass Ghost track “Like a Diamond” has a clackity-clack percussion thing going on with piano and high-above-the-ground vocals. Trippy. Good. Kurt Weisman’s “When I Saw Him With You” is a sweet, lonesome song complete with flute and dreamy vocals. Chris Weisman’s “Thorn” is an acoustic guitar driven tune with a ’70s folk vibe. All of this is to say, I have a feeling these four fine fellas are going to put on a show that will, at times, be sonically enthralling and other times chill, playful and inventive. Be sure to allow plenty of time to find parking because you won’t want to miss opener Tom Kovacevic. Representing South Portland, Kovacevic’s a songwriter, oud player and purveyor of Arabic music.
9 p.m. Friday. Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, $10 in advance, $12 day of show. space538.org