Trumpeter and composer Paul Dietrich explores the sound of jazz with strings on his new album, 5+4, out on October 13, 2023.
5+4 is a new instrumental environment for Paul Dietrich, but the hallmarks of his acclaimed compositional style remain present and evolving.
The Wisconsin-based trumpet player, composer and jazz educator Paul Dietrich will release his fourth album as a leader, 5+4, on October 13, 2023 on Shifting Paradigm Records. This project combines the instrumentation of a “traditional” jazz quintet paired with a string quartet. The quintet features Dietrich on trumpet with Dustin Laurenzi on saxophone and clarinet, Jason Kutz on piano, Brian Courage on bass, and Jon Deitemyer on drums while the strings section is made up of violinists Paran Amirinazari and Wes Luke, violist Kayla Patrick and Lindsey Crabb on cello. Dietrich set out to create a distinct sound, combining the intimate improvisatory setting of a modern jazz group with aesthetics borrowed from contemporary classical music.
Dietrich has released three prior albums as a leader: We Always Get There (2014) and Focus (2017) with his quintet, and Forward (2019) with his 18-piece Jazz Ensemble, which featured guest artist Clarence Penn and some of the Midwest’s standout jazz musicians, including alto saxophonist Greg Ward, trumpeter Russ Johnson, and guitarist Matt Gold. Forward was praised as “stunningly beautiful” by Audiophile Audition and Dietrich has been praised as “an exceptional composer and a superlative performer” by All About Jazz.
With extensive experience in both large ensemble and small group jazz, as well as work in the “classical realm” as a composer, 5+4 fits perfectly within Dietrich’s wheelhouse. The nine-piece ensemble lends itself well to the through-composed, large-scale approach that Dietrich has explored with his 18-piece Jazz Ensemble, but the quintet still operates like a tight, intimate, improvisatory small group. For inspiration, Dietrich looked to the work of some of his favorite modern jazz composers who have worked with strings, notably Matt Ulery, Fabian Almazan, Laura Jurd, and Ambrose Akinmusire. The string elements also draw from contemporary classical composers, like Caroline Shaw and Steve Reich.
Pieces like “Springs” and “Of Islands” operate in a thoroughly modern jazz environment, with grooves inspired by the likes of Tigran Hamasyan and ample solo space for Dietrich’s longtime collaborator, Dustin Laurenzi, on saxophone. “Suspend” combines this approach with a more classical harmonic universe, with Dietrich improvising over harmonies that wouldn’t be out of place in a collegiate music theory course while Laurenzi plays over an aggressive groove.
The strings take more of a central role on “Out Here” and even more so on “A Separation,” which begins with a few minutes of minimalist strings before Dietrich, Laurenzi, and Kutz join
for a quiet, drummer-less improvisation section. “Folk Song” explores the more fiddle-based side of the string instruments, with a catchy melody that develops into a long, open solo section for Dietrich.
“Some Things Last” is moodier and darker than the rest of the album, and, along with the final track, aptly named “Closing,” is more meditative and cinematic. Both bring Deitemyer into the foreground to stand out on the drum set.
5+4 showcases Dietrich’s skill as a composer and his continuing search for new sounds. The pieces contain his trademarks: sumptuous harmony, long forms, and big, dramatic solo sections. But the band operates beautifully within the structure, creating a sense of intimacy that is difficult to find in larger groups, and there is no shortage of space for the personality and identity of its soloists to shine through.