Voted #4 DC Jazz Album of 2020 on Capitalbop
"Stephen Arnold is already known as one of the most versatile bassists and side musicians on the D.C. jazz scene. His debut album as a bandleader, Sea Change, with his band of the same name, proves that he may be one of the city’s most imaginative composers too."
- Jackson Sinnenberg, Capitalbop
"Bassist and composer Steve Arnold releases his debut album, Sea Change, today. The album features an array of eclectic instruments and thoughtful songs that cohere seamlessly into a beautiful whole.... Arnold and his collective set a wistful-yet-hopeful tone on Sea Change, one sure to bring a little light to a decisively grey moment in our country’s history.... “Greenfield” is a guitar and bass-driven tune with a lilting, almost melancholy melody, with keys and a sax to match — each instrument taking its time to inhale the gentle air of the song. A touch of accordion eases in just before the songs’ crescendo, lifting the tune to a serene, almost ethereal place. Much of the album echoes that same ambiguous yet calming aura, leaving the listener to conjure a meaning to each tune specific to themselves. In times as tumultuous as these, Sea Change offers a much needed deep breath."
- Sadie Gronigan, Capitalbop
Sea Change, led by Washington, DC-area bassist Stephen Arnold, plays original songs that are informed by stories from Arnold’s life and his upbringing in Western Massachusetts. The band weaves traditional forms, folk melodies, and pop and rock sensibilities with the fluid structure and mercurial attitude of contemporary jazz. In performance Sea Change creates a music which is forward-thinking, while evoking the past and present of American song.
The band’s eponymous debut recording creates a narrative arc comprised of stories from Arnold’s lived experience of the past five years as a working musician. Each song was inspired by a strong feeling or memories, sometimes of family or friends from back home, sometimes of successes and failures from the near past. Arnold frames these compositions as songs and not tunes, as one might be wont to label music played in a typical jazz setting. In accordance with its vast range of disparate influences, the band’s sonic landscape is constantly churning. The improvised textural interplay between accordionist Simone Baron, guitarist Nelson Dougherty, and pianist Aleks Izotov creates massive, three-dimensional waves of support behind the unmistakable clarion call of Brian Settles’ tenor saxophone, though each player is sensitive enough leave room to feature one another, or create space for one of Arnold’s lyrical tenor-voiced bass solos. Drummer Keith Butler, Jr. and bassist Arnold, whose musical connection has developed over years working together in several bands, are capable of evoking at times tender subtleties reminiscent of Bill Frisell acolytes Rudy Royston and Thomas Morgan, the wild dynamism of Dannie Richmond and Charles Mingus, and even the all-out rock of the Who’s Keith Moon and John Entwistle. Featured here too is soprano saxophonist Sarah Marie Hughes, who plays two duets with Arnold at the piano. Her distinct musical personality shines in these features in which she exhibits both warm melodic interpretations and adventurous and cathartic improvisations.
In lesser hands, these songs might feel flat or cute, but this band delivers an unquestionable sense of earnestness, breathing life in to each composition, and constructing a thoroughly engaging story throughout the album’s twelve tracks.
Hear the Album Here:
Artwork © 2020 Elaine Wijaya