True to the group’s title, the emotional tone of a Sea Change set moves in tides, or waves — from sunlit optimism in one song to a dark, pensive moodiness in another. But wide as that contrast might be, Arnold’s compositions are all distinctively his own. They seem to come from a particular headspace: one with a lot of introspection, and just enough vulnerability.
Arnold didn’t grow up playing jazz, as he told me in our CB Sessions interview. I think his musical omnivorousness serves him well in contexts like Sea Change: Tunes like “Wide-Eyed” rely on the format and language of chamber jazz, but also borrow heavily from folk, modern rock, minimalism, and probably a dozen more stylistic playbooks. (If the group reminds me of any particular jazz sound, it’s probably the modern approach offered by musicians from Scandanavia and Isreal: Esbjorn Svensson, Yaron Herman, Avishai Cohen and others.)
Plus, Arnold has a knack for putting together a band. The ensemble on this recording isn’t Sea Change’s only lineup, but they are all close collaborators of Arnold’s, and their unique chemistry creates a lot of pretty brilliant moments. Brian Settles’ always-riveting voice on the tenor saxophone sets Paul Jung’s snare-drum stabs on fire. Jordan Williams’ piano accompaniment sometimes sounds like an extension of Arnold’s bass figures. And guitarist Nelson Dougherty is practically writing a masterclass on how to create atmosphere while remaining nearly invisible. Overall, it’s a remarkable sound, and one unlike any other ensemble based in the District.
For the best sound, listen on headphones or good speakers.
Want to watch more Spotlight Residency videos? Click here!
Filmed at Local 16, Washington, DC
Steve Arnold — bass/composition
Brian Settles — tenor saxophone
Jordan Williams — piano
Nelson Dougherty — guitar
Paul Jung — drums
Videography: Samuel Prather (samuelprather.com)
Audio + video editing: Jamie Sandel