NEVER DIE! is the debut album by \\livingfossil//, led by Toronto born-and-raised saxophonist Gordon Hyland. The band features a roster of musicians - all active players in Toronto - who have had important roles in Hyland’s life: be it as collaborators, friends, and/or mentors.
The central band is comprised of Mackenzie Longpre on drums, Neil Whitford on guitar, and Andrew Roorda on electric bass, all of whom have played music with Hyland for over a decade, having been members of the band Ninja Funk Orchestra. Torrie Seager (Hush Pup) adds additional guitar, often doubling the melody in Hyland’s arrangements. Vivienne Wilder provides acoustic bass, and Mike Murley (Metalwood), on tenor saxophone, is featured on several compositions.
Murley also co-produced the album with Hyland’s longtime collaborator, engineer and mixer, Andrew Mullin at Canterbury Studios in Toronto. The non-standard instrumentation (two guitarists) allows each musician to shine equally, and leads to the exploration of interesting new timbres: doubling between guitars and saxophones, effected instruments, and compositional forms infuenced by graphic scores and free improvisation.
NEVER DIE! will be released on Friday, February 2nd and the release of the album will be celebrated with a show at The Burdock Music Hall on Saturday, February 3rd.
Most of the tracks on this album are original works composed by Hyland, several of which are highly programmatic. The lead track on the album, ‘Macrophages’, zooms into the world of the white blood cell on its noble quest to seek and destroy an infection.
The album begins with a nebulous opening section that coagulates into the pulsating rhythmic heartbeat provided by Longpre and Roorda, underscoring the mysteriously determined melody of Hyland’s sax. ‘Living Fossil’, from which the band’s name is also derived, alludes to a concept that Hyland discovered while reading ‘The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau’, a series of books that Cousteau published in 1975.
At one point, the author asserts that a sea creature called the nautilus is effectively a ‘living fossil’, having apparently not evolved significantly since the Cambrian period some 500 million years ago. Hyland explores this theme by guiding the listener through a lush, whirling ocean of crystalline chords and shimmery guitar that cradle an exquisitely lonely sentiment. NEVER DIE!, the album’s title track, encapsulates the overall theme of the album: it is a tragicomedy, where a nostalgic sounding saxophone melody is interrupted somewhat rudely by an explosive Zappa inspired groove.
Despite the cacophany, Hyland’s sense of humour never allows the album to sink completely into the darkness.
Levity is also provided - with slapstick insanity - in the playful rendition of the Ornette Coleman song ‘Lorraine’ and Hyland’s arrangement of the aptly re-titled ‘Lessforgettable’, his take on Irving Gordon’s classic standard originally made famous by Nat King Cole. Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ is retitled ‘Baby Steps’, both a tip of the hat to one of the world’s greatest saxophonists, and a simultaneous wink to the absurdity of jazz school hero worship. The stadium saxophone track ‘Satellite’ harkens back to Hyland’s days in the electro-prog rock club scene with Ninja Funk Orchestra.
Here's a little more about Gordon Hyland....
As a young boy, Gordon Hyland loved cars and computers, and wanted to be an aerospace engineer when he grew up. That dream was pushed aside, however, in his mid teens as he found himself irresistibly drawn into the world of music after discovering his grandfather’s record collection - and the siren songs of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Duke Ellington, Count Basie - as well as winning an unexpected opportunity to go on a junior high band trip to Japan. Since then, with his trusty tenor saxophone in hand, Hyland pursued the music life diligently, ultimately obtaining both a Bachelors in Fine Arts and in Music (Concordia and University of Toronto), as well as a Masters in Jazz Performance (U of T) with a focus on saxophone and electronics. His education has also included an extended 10-week intensive in New York City to study privately with Mark Turner, Donny McCaslin, Bill McHenry, Chris Cheek, Seamus Blake, and Ohad Talmour, and several residencies at the renowned Banff Centre. Far from being a jazz purist, Hyland has gone out of his way to forge a unique career path for himself, developing a sound and style wholly his own from years of working with live electro-prog band Ninja Funk Orchestra, from which he gained a reputation for his innovative use of effects pedals with a tenor saxophone as well as for his multidisciplinary collaborative approach to staging the band, complete with costumes, lighting, and projections.
His career has taken him across North America, Europe, and Japan. His compositions and sound designs have been heard in award-winning films (Picture Day, O Negative), and theatre productions (Randolph Academy, Rogue Theatre, Baro Theatre, Red One Theatre, Candles Are For Burning). A highly seasoned music educator, he has taught at Trinity College School, and privately mentored next-generation jazz musicians who have gone on to pursue degrees in the field. Hyland has made it his objective to connect the dots between theory, performance, creativity and technology. Hyland gigs around his hometown of Toronto as a freelancer and as a regular with Dwayne Gretzky, Ronley Teper & The Lipliners, Vivienne Wilder & The Vice Presidents, Blunt Object, and the Mack Longpre Quartet.