The Stratos Ensemble

Freeing Form (Fateless Flows Records)

The Stratos Ensemble approaches its music from an ambient and progressive style rather than the traditional, non-idiomatic, free-jazz school of thought. Its focus is on textured audio exploration as much as musicianship, and its performances often extend into epic, long-form sets of sonic and melodic exploration, moving through peaks and valleys of intensity and emotional dynamics.

This latest LP by the Stratos Ensemble, entitled Freeing Form, is more versatile than any of the band’s previous releases. It covers a selection of work from 2013-2023, focusing mainly on the last two years of material performed by the band’s most current lineup of players. Various vocal elements are also introduced, a development following the arrival of a lead singer, Nichole Michelle Jones, in 2022. The music of Freeing Form, much like the rest of the Stratos Ensemble’s work, began as complete improvisations tracked at various studios. Later, De Benedictis mixed and edited these recordings to make them sound more like a production, supplementing the esoteric audio abandon typically associated with improvised music recordings.

The title of Freeing Form is a play-on-words to the term free-form and is a comment on the world of free and improvised music. One of the ideas it intends to suggest is that true freedom comes in many forms, even binding ones, and can be thought of in that way rather than always being considered a product of uncompromising will or whim.

The current lineup of musicians in The Stratos Ensemble are:

TJ Sammut — guitar
Robert Gross — bass
Nichole Michelle Jones — vocals, improv lyrics
Coco Roussel — drums, drum pads, additional synth
Dean De Benedictis — piano, synths, samplers, melodica, secondary vocals
Shaunte Palmer — trombone

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