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Composer/saxophonist Joshua Kwassman spins tale of friendship on debut album

Joshua Kwassman. Photo Credit: Amanda M. Hatfield
Joshua Kwassman. Photo Credit: Amanda M. Hatfield

The journey from adolescence to adulthood can be a harrowing one. For composer and saxophonist Joshua Kwassman, that was true in a very literal sense, as a three-day bike trip, in August 2010, with an idolized childhood friend collapsed into chaos and shattered his youthful illusions.

While that trek itself found Kwassman growing up in a hurry, his musical recounting of the experience marks the debut of a remarkably mature young composer. Songs of the Brother Spirit, which will be released March 12, 2013, on Truth Revolution Records, spins the tale of that friendship into a moving, richly-hued collection of music influenced by composers from Ravel and Rachmaninoff to Maria Schneider and Vince Mendoza. The disc climaxes in the three-part suite “The Nowhere Trail,” which follows Kwassman and his friend Justin through that ill-fated bike trip.

“I learned to be an adult through that experience,” Kwassman says of the journey in a news release. “The essence of this album is about going through our relationship and how that has translated to my life.”

Kwassman conveys this autobiographical account through lush, modernist arrangements that suggest an ensemble much larger and more varied than its six pieces. The group assembled for the project includes the composer himself on a variety of woodwinds, the ground-breaking guitarist Gilad Hekselman; guitarist Jeff Miles on “The Nowhere Trail Part I”; and the wordless vocals of Arielle Feinman, a classmate at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.

“She has this insane bel canto operatic training and an almost unlimited range,” Kwassman says of Feinman. “There’s a lot of depth in the kind of textures she can create with her voice. I think vocals bring a human quality to the music that no other instrument can.”

Songs of the Brother Spirit is the product of that experience, the document of an assured composer confidently allowing listeners to view the world through his own unique perspective. For more information on Joshua Kwassman, go to For more information on Truth Revolution Records, go to