- Saturn People's Sound Collective, Saturn People's Sound Collective
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Brian Boyes isn't afraid to go all out. Witness his massive, musically complex Saturn People's Sound Collective. Featuring more than 20 musicians, the ensemble debuted at the 2013 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. Perhaps due to the logistical nightmare involved in assembling almost two dozen of the area's best musicians at the same time, it took Boyes a decade to release the group's debut, self-titled LP. It was worth the wait.
Poised at the intersection of big band music and cosmic post-rock, Boyes' band/orchestra is suffused with power and precision. The former viperHouse member has created a sprawling, vibrant record that soars across a map of sounds and genres while featuring one of the finest collections of Vermont musicians ever assembled.
Saturn People's Sound Collective was culled from two live performances taped at Burlington's Tank Recording Studio in August 2022. In front of a studio audience, Boyes and his crew laid into the album's 10 tracks with equal parts high energy and lockstep tightness.
The album opens with a cover of former David Bowie saxophonist Donny McCaslin's art-rock jam "What About the Body." The tune gives the band's horn section a chance to cut loose over drummer Dan Ryan's propulsive beat, kicking off the record with a jolt of power.
The group moves seamlessly into "Reflections — Part 1," a swinging, high-octane jazz tune that showcases vocalist Nina Sklar as well as Dan Liptak's clever work on the bass clarinet. Boyes conducts his collective into the instrumental "Reflections — Part 2," which concludes with the full force of the band harnessed into an unstoppable groove machine.
"Juneteenth" features a spoken-word performance from Burlington poet Rajnii Eddins. "The times are calling for the iron in our blood, / The unsheathing of our tongues not to draw it," Eddins intones as the band lays down a darkly funky backing track.
The theme of social justice runs strongly through the record and is something of a passion for Boyes. An educator at the Cabot School, he created the student program SoundCheck, a collection of Vermont high schoolers writing and performing music to address the issues of racism and injustice.
Much of the album is instrumental. Songs such as "everEarth" and "Aspect" are worlds unto themselves, full of musical twists and intricate interplay. The list of musicians on the record is so long that it would take half of this review just to name them, but Boyes' compositions offer all of them moments to shine, whether it's Connor Young's trumpet, Xander Naylor's guitar work, or vocals from Amber deLaurentis, Stefanie Weigand, Cintia Lovo and Sklar.
Saturn People's Sound Collective is as impressive a record as you'll find in the Green Mountains, full of dynamic compositions and virtuoso-level musicianship. Check it out at saturnpeople.bandcamp.com.