Arts Desk

One Track Mind: MARS 4-Tet’s “The Blind Watchmaker”

OTM_21Standout Track: No. 6, “The Blind Watchmaker.” The tune is structured on a funky but jarring vamp (introduced by tenor saxophonist Jeff Antoniuk and bassist Max Murray, the M and A of “MARS”) of three-and-a-half bars, so it cycles back to the start just before the resolution you’re expecting. Once established, though, Antoniuk leaves that vamp to Murray and drummer Frank Russo, then joins guitarist Donato Soviero for a sweet, laid-back melody, laced with solos that unfurl slowly and lyrically.

Musical Motivation: Both song and album are named for and inspired by the similarly titled book by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. While the book was atheist Dawkins’ case for a creatorless universe, composer Antoniuk says he was much more intrigued by its layman’s explanation for “how things like an eyeball can evolve from simple forms and mechanisms.” Likewise, the tune “has elements of simple things that evolve into something more complicated.”

Summers School: MARS’ stated purpose is to build on post-1960s jazz and pop styles; still, when they first played “The Blind Watchmaker,” Antoniuk was surprised that his piano-written chords sounded like the Police when Soviero played them on guitar. “We started talking about the timbre that [Police guitarist] Andy Summers played with, and the effects he used to get them,” Antoniuk recalls. “It turned out that he liked this particular kind of chorus effect that you could only get on a particular effect box made by this particular manufacturer. Next thing I know, Donato’s on the Internet, tracking down and buying this very specific effects box just so we can get that Andy Summers sound on this one tune.”

MARS 4-Tet plays Twins Jazz on June 13. Listen to "The Blind Watchmaker" after the jump.

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