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Conversations with creators and organizers of the arts scene in West Michigan, hosted by Cara Lieurance

Album preview: “Semantics,” by Andrew Rathbun

 Cover art for "Semantics"
Photo by Stratos
Cover art for "Semantics"

Semantics is the 9th album Andrew Rathbun has recorded for the Denmark-based jazz label SteepleChase Records. Recorded in December 2021, it features 8 new pieces written by the multifaceted performer, composer, producer and professor of jazz saxophone at Western Michigan University, plus a Gil Evans work, “The Time of the Barracudas.”

Rathbun surrounded himself with New York-based musicians he’s known and admired for many years, and welcomed the guidance of producer Nils Winthers. Sharing saxophone lead is tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, an “incredibly honest and patient improviser.” Adds Rathbun, “He has one of the most beautiful saxophone sounds you could ever imagine.”
Gary Versace is the pianist, whom Rathbun says “always surprises me with what he plays. He’s absolutely one of my favorite musicians.” Bassist John Hébert is “again, very surprising. But so earthy, so grounded. He’s on the very first record I did in back the late ‘90s.” About drummer Billy Drummond, he says, “He has an expansive beat that’s just really infectious.”

When asked if he worries about repeating himself or finds that he uses similar gestures in his works, Rathbun says he thinks of what Kenny Wheeler told him when he asked him the same thing. Wheeler said, ”I think I have a system. I just don’t want to know what it is.”

Semantics is now available on most streaming platforms. In the interview, Rathbun and Cara Lieurance listen to three tracks: “Number One,” “Gestures from Another Time,” and “Semantics.”

Cara Lieurance covers local music with live morning interviews, and produces WMUK's Let's Hear It weekday mornings at 10 am Mon-Fri, showcasing local interviews and performances. She also produces The Pure Drop, an hour of Celtic music, with musician Dave Marlatt.
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