Spencer Zahn’s second record for Cascine emerged from a series of piano sketches born of daily improvisations in Kingston, New York, where he relocated during the pandemic after 14 years in the buzz of Brooklyn. Inspired by the space and pace of upstate life, he explored a more restrained, resonant mode of playing, letting chords delay all the way to silence, until the seeds of songs took shape. Zahn accompanied himself on upright bass, finessing each piece without cluttering it, focusing on the notion of “the instrument in a room.”
Recruiting long-time collaborator Andy Highmore for piano duties, the duo booked time at Figure 8 Recording in Prospect Heights to craft the lulling, lyrical 12-track suite of Pale Horizon. The tonality of the instruments was central to Zahn’s vision, fusing them to feel like a single entity, with upright bass blending in an elegant gradient with the low strings on the piano. An air of Keith Jarrett and Ryuichi Sakamoto hangs over the collection, acoustic and unhurried, stately but subdued, ruminative daydream melodies heard on the breeze in a quiet garden.
Zahn ascribes the album’s heightened sense of longing to a recent romantic relationship, infusing the music with newfound intimacy and tenderness. This is jazz as private reverie, murmurings of the heart at dusk and dawn, as light leaves and returns. Days become years; loves become lives. Nothing is static, least of all music: “Every decade you can hear how jazz shifts. It’s forever fluid.”