The deep-voiced thrum you hear at the top of this tune isn’t bass, but cello. To be precise, it’s the cello playing of Janel Leppin, best known as half of the experimental duo Janel and Anthony.
The music on “Clarity,” a recording that Leppin’s eight-piece Ensemble Volcanic Ash made at the 2013 Sonic Circuits Festival, is as nebulous in category as the duo’s: elements of jazz, electronica, ambient, avant-garde and chamber classical music (or at least chamber instruments, like harp and bassoon) all interact within the mix.
If none of these musical strands quite defines the ensemble’s sound on “Clarity,” jazz comes the closest — between Leppin’s stark rhythmic figure and Sarah Hughes’ dark and mysterious alto sax solo, the jazz feeling is unmistakable. Perhaps that’s what landed Ensemble Volcanic Ash a prime spot in the lineup of 2015’s Washington Women in Jazz Festival, taking place throughout the month of March.