PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Chicago's Twin Talk Take Jazz on a Bracing, Innovative Journey with 'Weaver'

Photo: Maren Celest

Jazz trio Twin Talk's third album, Weaver, is inventive and exhilarating, combining unique arrangements and arresting melodies.

Twin Talk


8 February 2019

The most exciting jazz music being made today is the kind that defies convention, the kind that makes you rethink the concept of jazz while still retaining a comfortable air of the familiar. It can be a tough line to straddle. One of the bands doing just that is Chicago's Twin Talk. Formed in 2012, their sound is unmistakably jazz, but falls outside of the genre's comfort zones just enough to make it fresh and vital.

The trio's third album, Weaver, follows 2013's Sightline and their 2016 self-titled sophomore effort. Dustin Laurenzi, a reedist who plays tenor saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet, was touring with Bon Iver when that band's leader, Justin Vernon, was impressed enough with Twin Talk to give them time in his Wisconsin studio. From there, Weaver was born.

Rounding out the trio is bassist/vocalist Katie Ernst and drummer Andrew Green, and the three musicians kick off Weaver with a distinctly eclectic title track – one that combines dreamy, understated vocal lines, martial percussion beats, and Laurenzi's tenor sax taking some inspired soloing while bass and bass clarinet keep a hypnotic pulse. It's traditional yet still refreshingly adventurous. The following track, "Five", is more ethereal, almost dream-like, even when it descends into chaos as the track winds down.

While all three members of the band are active in Chicago's bustling jazz community by playing in a variety of different bands, their collective voice is evident as Twin Talk. This is a band that truly listens to each other and operates as a distinct unit, as Ernst's "Human Woman" demonstrates. Her powerful voice emits a seductive, jazzy vocal line, which Laurenzi apes on the tenor sax as the two create a vibrant duet; meanwhile, Green's frenetic drumming eggs them on. His percussion also frames the unique pulse of "Miniature I", with distorted tom-toms accompanying a vocal/sax melody that allows the track to exist for just under two minutes, never coming close to overstaying its welcome.

The use of Justin Vernon's studio was quite the coup for Twin Talk, as the sound of Weaver is decidedly crisp and clear, with separation of instruments providing plenty of opportunity to pick apart the instrumentation. On a luxurious, slow number like "The Sky Never Ends", Twin Talk move deliberately through the song, and even with double-tracked clarinet and the interweaving of vocals and saxophone, it never seems overstuffed. The trio creates a mood that is artful but unpretentious, and when it slows down to a droning, meditative coda, it comes off as a natural transition even if you never expected it.

Elsewhere, the transitions on Weaver are abrupt and refreshingly playful. "The Sky Never Ends" careens abruptly into "Paxton", a bit of off-kilter funk highlighted by Green's raucous drumming. Ernst then takes the spotlight in "Solace", the album's foray into actual lyrics. It's a gorgeous, almost Zen-like tone poem. "All the words you need now / Were spoken long ago," she sings repeatedly, like a mantra, while Green and Laurenzi artfully back her up.

Weaver concludes with the sequel "Miniature II", and it brings the album to a peaceful close, with Green's clattering, lyrical percussion providing the perfect accompaniment to Laurenzi's soloing and Ernst's heavy bass lines. It's a fitting end to a sometimes frenetic, always eclectic sonic ride. With Weaver, Twin Talk have made a bold musical statement, and it's one that will likely cause the serious (or even casual) jazz fan to take notice.

Related Articles Around the Web

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.