Vol. 1, No. 2


A duo album featuring organist Jack Langdon and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, recorded at the Thetford Hill Church of Thetford, Vermont in August 2022.

First Congregational Church of Thetford, Thetford Hill, Vermont
organ by Rieger Orgelbau

Dear Reader,

Amidst the heaviest years of the pandemic lockdown, I was a student and collaborator of cornetist and composer Taylor Ho Bynum. Taylor and I lived in neighboring small towns on the Connecticut River, which forms the boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire. At the time, I was a masters student at Dartmouth College, where Taylor leads the Coast Jazz Orchestra.

When I returned to campus after summer 2020, heavy restrictions on space were a common obstacle to encounter, which made for a difficult environment to find opportunities to keep an improvisational practice alive. Outdoor playing proved to be suitable until the first six weeks of classes passed, when the preliminary cold snaps of an incoming New England winter arrived.

Taylor and I found ourselves playing together in the various churches in the Upper Valley region, who would host us during quiet midweek hours, allowing for adequate spatial separation to ensure our health and safety. Over the period of two years, we regularly played in duo formation, occasionally joined by other local musicians—Toby Summerfield, Webb Crawford, Henry Danaher, Olivia Shortt, and Weston Olencki. This proved to be an important respite, and was often the foundation from which long conversations about the changing world and music’s place within it occured.

The recording that became Precision Valley came from a session at the nearby Thetford Hill Church, four miles north of the town I lived in. This was the final session that Taylor and I were to have prior to my return to Chicago in Fall 2022. We convened in the organ loft on what was likely one of the warmest days of the entire summer, with intense rays of light baking the sanctuary as we played. We had no preparation nor plan for this session, and it was the first time we had played together in this space and with myself playing this particular pipe organ. After we had finished playing, a sense of culmination arrived within me, something which seems to inevitably come with those sessions which precede a big move to a new place.

Precision Valley is a record largely grounded in the language of the brass and organ dialect—Christian hymnody, triadic harmony, and solemn spaciousness. Yet, the inescapable desire to overcome this style afforded by the history of our instruments drove aspects of our playing. Fluttering fanfares interrupt wistful melodicism, walking basslines in the organ pedals activate a space which was formerly full of stasis and meditation. 

This record is an offering of reflection upon a weird two year period where the world slowed down and where Taylor and I found ourselves playing in vacant churches in rural New England to find some musical meaning together.

The record is available for listening and purchase HERE

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Empty Stage Journal & Records
Chicago, Illinois