Nova Pangaea is a stunning testament to the beauty of our planet and the urgency of the climate crisis. The Portland-based flutist and saxophonist, John C. Savage, has corralled some of Portland's most adventurous improvisers and created a haunting, yet hopeful, quartet album that masterfully blends jazz, world music, and avant-garde sounds to convey the interconnectedness of our global community and the urgent need for collective action.
From the opening title track, Savage's flute dances delicately atop the shimmery quartal voicings of Mike Gamble's guitar. While rhythmic pulses from bassist Shao Way Wu and drummer Ken Ollis evoke the majesty of the creation of new earth.
"The Great Acceleration" expresses the chaos and tumult of a worsening disaster with a vibe that is as much Ornette Coleman's Science Fiction sessions as it is John Zorn.
Throughout the album, Savage's woodwind playing is impressive, moving shown on the pensive groaning of his clarinet on "Greta and Amira Sit on the Banks of a Mighty River Discussing the Climate Crisis." This tune takes on the ambitious task of imagining a world in which all nations work together to address the climate crisis. The quartet builds to a frenetic climax, conveying both the urgency and the potential of such a unified effort.
Meanwhile, his virtuosic flute improvisations on "4° to Oblivion" demonstrates his deep connection to the instrument and to the collaborative compositional process the band possesses on the freer pieces.
Gamble is equally impressive throughout. A master of timbre and in possession of enviable chops, Gamble demonstrates throughout why he is in such high demand as a player in a wide variety of styles.
But what truly sets "Nova Pangea" apart is its commitment to addressing the climate crisis in both its music and its messaging. Savage has made it clear that he sees his role as a musician not just as a performer, but as an advocate for positive change. The tune titles evoke a lot of imagery and emotional response and the music sees us all through the messaging.
Indeed, "Nova Pangea" is a call to action, a reminder that we are all part of a global community that is facing an existential threat. But it is also a celebration of the beauty and diversity of our planet, a testament to the power of music to connect us all. In Lie Very Still's hands, music becomes a tool for transformation, a way to imagine and enact a more just and sustainable world.
John C. Savage - alto saxophone, flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone
Mike Gamble - guitar
Shao Way Wu - bass
Ken Ollis - drums