You’ve reached a Premium article. To continue reading, please login or start a 3-MONTH TRIAL SUBSCRIPTION for just 99 cents/month. You’ll receive unlimited digital access plus a complimentary issue of our award-winning print magazine.
Join Our Newsletter
Join thousands of other jazz enthusiasts and get new music, artists, album, events and more delivered to your inbox.
For guitarist Ike Sturm and bassist Jesse Lewis, who comprise the New York-based acoustic duo Endless Field, the beauty and mystery of the music heard on Alive in the Wilderness, their beguiling new album on the Biophilia label, is directly connected to the circumstances under which it was made — on location in the wilds of Utah. And thanks to portable studio equipment, which the pair and their crew physically carried to an assortment of spectacular settings documented in accompanying clips shot by a National Geographic videographer, nature often added its own accompaniment. “You could hear birds having a literal dialogue with us as we were playing,” Sturm says.The players’ self-titled 2017 debut was largely cut in New York’s Catskill Mountains, albeit under more typical studio conditions. The original plan for their sophomore effort, which benefits the Natural Resources Defense Council, was to bring their instruments and assorted technology outdoors in the same region. But Mother Nature had a different idea.“We did a test run in the Northeast, but there were passing thunderstorms every day,” Lewis recalls. “Being out with all our gear in the weather, we realized quickly we had to do it somewhere very dry, with almost no humidity.”Utah fit the bill perfectly, and while getting to the most inspirational spots was sometimes practically an athletic feat, their resulting exhaustion had its advantages. “We would sometimes be physically destroyed by hiking into places, and in some ways that would take the edge off, and the mental game that happens in a recording was eased,” Sturm says. “You wouldn’t have that nervous energy — but definitely some energy when it looked like the bass might slide off the cliff we were standing on.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d32vt8Zxrn8 The risks paid off. Lewis’ bass solo piece “Wolfhead” is so resonant, in part, because it was captured for posterity in a slot canyon whose walls towered hundreds of feet above them. Likewise, “The Well” brims with instrumental interplay that’s all the more astonishing given that neither band member was confident a single note would be heard. “We spent many hours lugging all our gear up this mountain to a waterfall,” Lewis says. “But the water was so loud in the microphones we didn’t know if it was going to work. That was a situation where the mix was a challenge — to try to get the waterfall to be as quiet as possible.”Fortunately, the waterfall cooperated. —Michael Roberts Feature photo by Christopher GeorgiaLISTEN OR BUY: