Scotobiology—the study of darkness, is an album inspired by the effects of artificial light on living beings, as conceived by alto saxophonist Curtis Macdonald featuring bassist Christopher Tordini and drummer Craig Weinrib inside a deep spaciousness.

Choosing to stay minimal throughout the recording process, the trio recorded Curtis’ music using only three microphones in just one room, the pieces sequenced in the same chronological order from how it was tracked, which give insight to the curve of energy the musicians felt during their performance. “Scotobiology is likely the most honest, personal and naked recording I’ve made to date. All ideas about the structure of the music and repertoire were decided spontaneously on the day of the session. The next week I sent it to off for mixing. I tried to edit and change it, but that didn’t work no matter how hard I tried. I had to let go and leave things as they are. Such a simple idea, but also a terrifying one. The album had to be like this.” says Macdonald. Indeed, Scotobiology has a unique sound compared to other trio jazz recordings, thanks to how it was captured in a setting of quietude—one that’s now home to the ensemble.

During the creative process, Macdonald came across visual artist Tracy Maurice‘s photographs of exotic mushrooms from her personal collection. Inspired by the powerful regeneration capabilities of Fungi, and their inherent visual beauty, Macdonald meditated on the this raw and humble life form that can transform the most polluted things into fresh new fertile ground. This album, Scotobiology, is the response to contemplating this type of transformation.

Macdonald feels comforted by natural decomposition and regeneration. “Fungi are a massive neural network with a deeply complex, interconnected communication system. Some mycologists even say that mushrooms are the very organisms that can save our planet, as they can be bred to break down plastics, clean up oil spills and neutralize radioactive waste. I love this idea and take a great deal of comfort in it. And it’s something that was in the front of my mind when I chose to produce this recording.” he says.

Macdonald continues, “On this record, I embody a reluctant, fiery character exploring a heart-opening darkness; Chris and Craig give a warm, expansive foundation. They produce the intuitive response to my calls on the horn.” Together, the trio explore an introspective territory, churning with heat and armed with slight rebellion.

Noted as some of today’s most sought after creative music collaborators, Tordini and Weinrib navigate through Macdonald’s lucid compositional framework, improvising amidst a pervading expansive darkness. Silence plays a strong character on this album too, with its deep presence always nearby, influencing the musicians’ intuitive choices.

There’s a real shadowy presence that hangs over this trio set from alto saxophonist Curtis Macdonald, acoustic bassist Christopher Tordini and drummer Craig Weinrib.  It wouldn’t be inaccurate to utilize the word ‘ambient’ to describe the music, except for the fact that there’s a perpetual state of unease in all of the expressions, and so the concept of attaining serenity is sort of neutralized if you can’t ever truly let your guard down. That said, whether developing parallel ideas or locked into the same image, there are moments of an hypnotic nature, and it’s the kind of thing that carries over even into the tracks where the tempo moves with a bit more immediacy.
-Dave Sumner at Bird is the Worm

Think of Scotobiology as a type of funeral music, recorded directly across the street from a historic, gothic cemetery in Brooklyn — it feels a little haunting. The only question that remains is, where will it reincarnate next? 


Curtis Macdonald, alto saxophone
Christopher Tordini, acoustic bass
Craig Weinrib, drums & Paiste cymbals

Running time: 30:06

Curtis Robert Macdonald (SOCAN)

Cemetery Studios
July 27th, 2016

Mix & Mastering
Michael Paul Stavrou
StudioStav, Byron Bay, Australia

Tracy Maurice

Matt Macdonald

Released September 18, 2016

Author: Curtis Macdonald

I'm a saxophonist, composer and producer based in Brooklyn, NY.