Time Planet – Time Planet (2015)

Time Planet - Time Planet

Time Planet is the eponymous debut album from a group of young musicians from New England. The quintet features Alex Quinn on trumpet, Hunter McKay on saxophone and bass clarinet, Alex Han on keyboards, Jason Emmond on bass, and Evan Kesel on drums. One important factoid to note is how young the group is. Everyone in Time Planet is studying (music or otherwise) at universities and conservatories throughout New England with the exception of drummer Evan Kesel, who will begin school at Berklee College of Music in the fall of 2016.

One thing I like in particular about this group is how amazingly consistent they are on and off stage. At the band’s album release party at the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center I noticed a handful of idiosyncratic features that remained constant between the album and their live performances. When performing the very end of “Zodiac Killer”, McKay and Quinn repeat a phrase several times before cutting it short by one note the last time around. When the band cuts out, Han briefly sustains the note they omitted. It wasn’t until I listened to the recording that I realized that this was intentional. On a couple of songs, namely “Galactic Noise”, Kesal will occasionally anticipate or lag the kick and snare hits by mere fractions of a beat to emulate a ‘looping error’ effect. To some, this may seem like an error or an imperfection, but his sense of time and the presence of these characteristic hits on the recordings says otherwise.

The members of the band have varying music tastes, a trait that works in their favor. Some of Hunter Mckay’s greatest influences include Chris Potter, Mark Turner, and Donny McCaslin, all of which are evident in his improvisation. After the band’s album release show I was able to talk to their drummer. Upon being asked about who his influences are, he told me that he doesn’t often listen to jazz drummers but instead prefers the works of the late hip-hop beat maker J Dilla.

Time Planet is entirely comprised of original compositions by McKay and Quinn that combine stylistic elements from jazz, fusion, and neo-soul. With such a diverse combination of personal influences and styles it’s hard to nail down what Time Planet really is; even McKay isn’t quite sure. “I hesitate to call it jazz/rock because that can make people think fusion and that’s definitely not what it is.” he says. “It’s definitely more of an alt. rock influence from bands like Radiohead.” He then compared the improvisation in “Garbage Beast” to Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place”.

One of the many high points on this album is “Nimbus Lord”, a track that unites everything that the band does well. The rhythm section is now enhanced with the warm, dark timbre of the bass clarinet doubling Emmond’s bass part. Soon after the initial groove is set up comes one of the most memorable melodies on the album followed by solos by Han and Quinn.

Time Planet is a fantastic album that is both compelling for jazz fans and accessible to casual listeners. If you have an interest in jazz, Radiohead, or are looking for something new, this album is definitely something to check out.

Favorite Track: “Nimbus Lord”

I was contacted (but not compensated) by Time Planet to review their debut album. All ideas expressed are my own.