Identity, in all its complexities and ironies, is the theme of drummer Jesse Kramer’s latest project, Antinous as Osiris, featuring vocalist Sarah D’Angelo, saxophonist Tim Haldeman, guitarist Max Bowen, and bassist Brian Juarez.
Kramer explores Hadrian’s identity and emotional downfall in the opening piece “Tout L’été” and the title track “Antinous as Osiris”. Kramer uses haunting melodies, descending harmonies, and rich textures, paired with D’Angelo’s beautiful, erotic, and tragic lyrics inspired by Marguerite Yourcenar’s exquisite language in Memoirs of Hadrian.
Kramer utilizes the rhythmic cadence of Langston Hughes’ poetry as inspiration for “Decca” and “Flatter Beers”. The quintet breaks down to a trio for “Decca”. Bowen and Kramer groove freely over Juarez’s powerful bassline chant. “Flatter Beers” begins with an open improvisation featuring Haldeman’s potent, playful wit, before launching into a free-bop melody taken from the lines of Hughes’ poem “Flatted Fifths”.
Finally, Kramer turns the mirror on himself. When Kramer was a child, his father owned land which under its previous tenant had been a farm. Over time, the land became overgrown with trees and tall grasses interrupted only by a pond, a humble shack, and inexplicable piles of large stones resembling ancient henges. Kramer evokes the folk songs his father would sing and the lush flora of the farm with “Stone Farm”. D’Angelo and Haldeman blend beautifully, floating over Juarez and Bowen’s countermelody, while Kramer creates a serene landscape of delicate brush work underneath this timeless Americana melody.