Culture & Conversation

Fusing Guilt-free Music

The best leaders convince you that their work is collaborative and happened naturally, just as it inevitably should have. The Sociopaths is just such a project. Led by jack of all trades – and master of several – Charles Papasoff, The Sociopaths fuse the musical stylings of a classical piano and bass with a rock drummer and folk singer.

Papasoff brings it all together on his bari sax without becoming the centre of the sound. He’s more of a locus than a focus; directing without directing. He makes a space for perfect music to enter and, occasionally, that’s exactly what manifests. As he said in an interview, he sets the perfect table, the room is airy, the dishes clean, you have everything you need when you come to my house. If this person needs a glass of water for it to be perfect, it will be ready and waiting.

The project is a collaboration between musicians who obviously love to work together, and obviously love to push each other to excellence. When the vocals and tenor sax get together, the competition is fierce and the age-old tug of war between voice and instrument easily shows. But when a soprano singer like Coral Egan and a bari sax played by Papasoff dance and weave between complex piano solos and compelling bass, it’s pure magic.

The missing element is, of course, the drums that exist and can be heard, but don’t shine through the way the others did. It’s a little surprising with such an eminent drummer in the mix, but the strength of the sound truly comes from many places and group builds rather than a singular drum sound. Whether that’s a case of too many chefs – the songs are composed collaboratively – or songs deliberately written with understated drums is unclear.

Papasoff also said that Sociopath means music without guilt. I wonder if it means a little shamelessness too – like stopping in the middle of a song for sound adjustment, as they did last Thursday at l’Astral in the second set. It’s certainly unapologetic and deserves every bit of attention coming its way.

The project itself consists of many elements and seems to be undirected, naturally occurring. You can hear the ease with which Papasoff and Matt Herskowitz, the pianist, play together, artfully dodging each other as tunes progress. Coral Egan brings her own brand of jazz vocals; it’s not Dixieland scat, but it’s definitely just as free and at once deliberate as can only be achieved by a master having a hell of a good time. Mathieu Desy’s bass was already in the mix on various projects and, when the first attempt floated, Sam Harrison joined on the drums and it started flying, like good sociopaths do.

The Sociopaths are in the studio this month, so it might not be long before you get to take some guilt free music home for yourself. The only thing to be ashamed of is missing a live taste of this innovative and impressive group.

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