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Unfold Ordinary Mind

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Album Review

For Unfold Ordinary Mind, Bay area clarinetist Ben Goldberg has put together an interesting group. Twin tenors Ellery Eskelin and Rob Sudduth join Nels Cline on guitar and Ches Smith on drums while Goldberg's contra-alto clarinet covers most of the bass duty. These are well-written tunes with nice ensemble horn work to state the melodies, and when it's solo time, they operate together brilliantly. Eskelin and Sudduth have been active in all sorts of projects in New York and San Fransisco respectively for decades. Ches Smith can kill it with a groove, react intuitively, or take it to outer space (there's a reason he's such an in-demand player). Nels Cline is, well, he's Nels Cline, one of the most creative and original electric guitar players in modern music. But it's Goldberg's writing that makes this album more than the sum of its parts. The horns are soulful, the grooves are solid, and Nels adds just the right counterpoint even when he's getting crazy, and everyone gets some nice solo space. The group dynamic is more like a funk/soul band, although no one would call this a funk or soul album. It may be a slightly unorthodox lineup, but Unfold Ordinary Mind is a real winner.

Customer Reviews


"Unfold Ordinary Mind is a fascinating band, perhaps more than the sum of its impressive parts. Tenor saxophonists Eskelin and Rob Sudduth sometimes lock into warm harmonies, sometimes go off on simultaneous, beautifully discordant solos. Drummer Ches Smith has a full arsenal of relaxed grooves, unpredictable accents and atmospheric textures at his disposal, each song tracing a winding but cohesive narrative thanks largely to his steady hand. Goldberg’s sturdy low end is the eye of the storm, and Cline, as always, is the subtlest of guitar gods, blending into the ensemble until he’s ready to stand out with an incredible sequence of tones that magically emanates from his strings and array of effects boxes... Guys like the musicians in Unfold Ordinary Mind are always combining for new groups that only make a couple records or gig sporadically, but this combination felt special enough that hopefully there’ll be lots more to come, perhaps even in Baltimore". -Al Shipley/NOISE

"The instruments ... suggested jazz, but the music coaxed from two tenor saxophones, a guitar, drums, and a rarity called the contra alto clarinet straddled the lines between traditional and avant garde, among rock, jazz, and blues.... [Unfold Ordinary Mind] deconstructed familiar genres and reassembled them using alien schematics." -Brian G. Howard/

"I have been developing my abilities on the Eb contra alto clarinet (a weird member of the family, pitched below the bass clarinet) for some years," says Goldberg, "mostly in my work with the group Tin Hat. Somehow it occurred to me to have a band where I was the bass player, on this instrument. Of course the group would need two of my tenor saxophone heroes (Ellery Eskelin and Rob Sudduth), a guitar genius (and now certifiable rock star) (Nels Cline), and the deeply tumultuous drummer Ches Smith. So after the premier of my latest giant project, Orphic Machine, in March of 2012, I wrote a bunch of songs and assembled this crew at the Bunker studio in Williamsburg one day in May. We learned the tunes, rehearsed, and recorded them all in just a few hours, and the results are extraordinary--raw, dire, and to the point."

UnFold Ordinary Mind

Bay Area clarinetist Ben Goldberg's Unfold Ordinary mind combines some gorgeous tenor saxophone work from Ellery Eskelin and Rob Sudduth with some very interesting groove type compositions. Free and out guitar from the stellar hands of Nels Cline swirls beautifully around the at times chaotic and at times beautiful soundscapes that appear on this recording. Overall a very satisfying effort from a contemporary clarinetist and composer of unique consequence.


Born: August 8, 1959 in Denver, Colorado

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Clarinetist Ben Goldberg is a bandleader, composer, teacher, musical theorist, and a founding member of Tin Hat. He is a top-tier sideman chosen not only for jazz dates but as a guest on rock recordings. His work has consistently challenged not only the role his chosen instrument plays in jazz, but also in new music, klezmer, classical, and pop. He was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, later earning an undergraduate music degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a subsequent Master...
Full Bio
Unfold Ordinary Mind, Ben Goldberg
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