NEVER DIE! is the debut album by \\livingfossil//, led by Toronto born-and-raised saxophonist Gordon Hyland. The band features a roster of musicians - all active players in Toronto - who have had important roles in Hyland’s life: be it as collaborators, friends, and/or mentors.
The central band is comprised of Mackenzie Longpre on drums, Neil Whitford on guitar, and Andrew Roorda on electric bass, all of whom have played music with Hyland for over a decade, having been members of the band Ninja Funk Orchestra. Torrie Seager (Hush Pup) adds additional guitar, often doubling the melody in Hyland’s arrangements. Vivienne Wilder provides acoustic bass, and Mike Murley (Metalwood), on tenor saxophone, is featured on several compositions. Murley also co-produced the album with Hyland’s longtime collaborator, engineer and mixer, Andrew Mullin at Canterbury Studios in Toronto. The non-standard instrumentation (two guitarists) allows each musician to shine equally, and leads to the exploration of interesting new timbres: doubling between guitars and saxophones, effected instruments, and compositional forms influenced by graphic scores and free improvisation.
Most of the tracks on this album are original works composed by Hyland, several of which are highly programmatic. The lead track on the album, ‘Macrophages’, zooms into the world of the white blood cell on its noble quest to seek and destroy an infection. The album begins with a nebulous opening section that coagulates into the pulsating rhythmic heartbeat provided by Longpre and Roorda, underscoring the mysteriously determined melody of Hyland’s sax. ‘Living Fossil’, from which the band’s name is also derived, alludes to a concept that Hyland discovered while reading ‘The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau’, a series of books that Cousteau published in 1975. At one point, the author asserts that a sea creature called the nautilus is effectively a ‘living fossil’, having apparently not evolved significantly since the Cambrian period some 500 million years ago. Hyland explores this theme by guiding the listener through a lush, whirling ocean of crystalline chords and shimmery guitar that cradle an exquisitely lonely sentiment. NEVER DIE!, the album’s title track, encapsulates the overall theme of the album: it is a tragicomedy, where a nostalgic sounding saxophone melody is interrupted somewhat rudely by an explosive Zappa inspired groove. Despite the cacophany, Hyland’s sense of humour never allows the album to sink completely into the darkness.
Levity is also provided - with slapstick insanity - in the playful rendition of the Ornette Coleman song ‘Lorraine’ and Hyland’s arrangement of the aptly re-titled ‘Lessforgettable’, his take on Irving Gordon’s classic standard originally made famous by Nat King Cole. Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ is retitled ‘Baby Steps’, both a tip of the hat to one of the world’s greatest saxophonists, and a simultaneous wink to the absurdity of jazz school hero worship. The stadium saxophone track ‘Satellite’ harkens back to Hyland’s days in the electro-prog rock club scene with Ninja Funk Orchestra.
Official website: http://gordonhyland.com/